Obviously, we are living through an unprecedented and perilous time, as Covid-19 gallops silently through our communities, leaving disease and death in its wake. It leaves us vulnerable, anxious, fearful, and deeply concerned for our loved ones, our health care system, and the economy in which we survive and function.
I have been asked to share some thoughts with you. I do this, somewhat tentatively and humbly, knowing that many people are broadcasting their advice and their encouragement, and it seems this situation is morphing hour by hour.
Everyone is going through this pandemic in some way or another, with self-isolation the order of the day when we’re not at work. But each of us lives our own particular version of these tragic events. For each of us, our home, or our extended family, and our circle of friends, is different. We all have different or greater and lesser layers of stress. For some it is more or complex compounded than others.
I know that each of you has your own particular concerns as we hunker-down and tough this out together and apart. And those who already bear the burden of mental concerns, find this time additionally stressful.
This pandemic presents as a marathon without a clear finish line. It is rapidly evolving, and yet the worst is yet to come. And in the meantime, our stresses accumulate and compound. Our resilience is being tested.
My friends who are marathon runners, teach me that a marathon is a series of sprints strung together. In this marathon, each day may be a sprint for us. Sometimes each critical situation we face is a sprint.
As first responders we know you face greater risks than the general population. All the precautions we are expected to take are extremely necessary, but they may not alleviate all the fears we inadvertently carry in our minds and hearts. It may not alleviate all the fears of our loved ones.
There will be times when we are angry — like when we see gaps and inconsistencies in how this pandemic is being handled, and when we see people flaunting the practice of social distancing. Obviously, we figure out when to speak, and when not to speak, and how to cool our anger.
Trust is the only anti-dote to fear, that I know: Trust yourself, trust your best self – your best judgment, trust your team mates, trust your training, trust the feedback of colleagues and partners, trust the best advice that is being dispensed to us. Trust God, or whatever spiritual resources or Divine relationship feeds your spirit. Some of us find prayer or meditation helpful and refreshing.
We do well to keep up our levels of exercise, even when we are expected to stay inside. I lament that hiking trails are closed!
Obviously, households where relationships were strained before this outbreak, will feel those strains somewhat amplified. In this time, some of us may see our petty differences in a new light. But if we find ourselves in times of tension, I suggest we do our best to de-escalate. We can resolve what we can. We ignore what we can. Sometimes as adults we also need “time out,” in order to retrieve our best self, or to escape someone who is abusive. We do our best to cooperate and live to our best selves where ever possible, and can get help if and when we cannot live to our best selves.
I hope you will feel free to call me, or text me, if you need to chat with an independent person: 647-393-6247, about anything going on at this time.
Finally, allow me to speak briefly out of the Christian faith tradition: We are a few days from Easter. Easter weekend follows the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth (Good Friday) and his resurrection from the dead (Easter Sunday). For those of us who follow the story on past Easter morning, we come to two scenes in which the first followers of Jesus are in self-isolation in fear of the authorities at the time.
Their self-isolation appears to span more than a week. Admittedly, the details are sparse. But what is remarkable is that on Easter evening, and a full week later, the risen or resurrected Jesus appears twice to his first disciples when they are in self-isolation. They are behind locked doors, and he just shows up! Doesn’t use the door! (This is recorded in the gospel of St. John.) Christians believe Jesus Christ can intrude or show-up anywhere.
For me, at this juncture in time, it is a reminder that spiritual resources come to us when we are in self-isolation. Spiritual resources come to us when we self-isolate in fear or uncertainty – or because it is required. This can take many forms: the divine human connection we have known and cultivated, or a memory from our past that encourages us, or a piece of music that stirs us, or the encouragement of someone we are with, or our spiritual connect with a deceased ancestor whose wisdom or courage or encouragement comes to us in a particularly helpful and fresh way. Inspiration for coping, inspiration for stamina, and inspiration for creativity can come from beyond us in truly surprising ways.
In this time of anxiety and uncertainty, I wish you all peace and courage and hope.
Rev. Jim Cairney, MFES Chaplain
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