Faith is often crucial at times of difficulty; COVID isn’t an exception
Paul P. Jesep*/Special to TRT—Someone asked me the other day, “How are you doing? Did quarantine take a toll?” I responded, “I’m grateful.”
Here’s why: My daylilies are in bloom. The hardy, yet delicate wildflowers are multiple bouquets of small, colored jewels. I’ve discovered the joy of “tea cakes” (I’m a tea snob. I try to avoid dust in a bag.). If I drove and, depending on the route, I did so on a beautiful country road often seeing deer and rabbits frolicking; as unpleasant as these times can be, I am grateful for the opportunity to self-reflect.
These were some of the daily joys I appreciated. I would, however, be dishonest to say anxiety over national politics, and the pandemic didn’t have an impact. The waistline shows it. Pasta is a blessing and a curse. My blood pressure responded accordingly.
Yet, blessings surround all of us. I often reminded myself of this fact. Gratefulness does not pay the rent, mortgage, or put food on the table. But, it does give you a minute to experience something positive and escape from the harsh realities that challenge us. I’ve also found gratefulness kept me grounded and assisted me to better manage anxiety or problems in general.
There were days in which finding joy was tough. On those days, I took envelopes and pieces of paper and started writing notes to friends. A kind, positive note makes a difference to both your mental wellbeing and to the person who received something other than an e-mail. E-mails will never give the energy or feelings of a handwritten connection. Why have we forgotten the art of letter writing?!
I had to remember to laugh, though never at someone else’s expense. I gave myself a haircut! The results were, to put it charitably, modest. I don’t recommend it without the right tools, but it can be done. Thank God (gender-neutral) for gel. You can hide many mistakes with globs of gel. After this debacle, I did purchase and successfully used a self-hair cutting tool
Always on my bookshelf is The Brothers Karamazov, The Trial of God, and the Bible (Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament). I also re-read and keep on my shelf, Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankel, a psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor.
Frankel’s book is about men and women who found meaning during the most horrible human experiences. It’s short and can be a life-changing book. While Freud focused on humankind’s drive for pleasure and Adler explored the human need for power and domination, Frankel believed in the quest to find the “will to meaning.” Frankel’s work addresses the basic human need for purpose, to feel valued, and contribute something positive.
It was especially worth re-reading during the pandemic and peaceful demonstrations for social justice. COVID-19 and calls for change will be included with the Civil War, Great Depression, and World War II as defining moments for the country. Every national crisis or awakening is an opportunity for individual self-reflection. My reading list nurtured it.
Have I contributed to a problem through complacency or did I play a small part in building a better world? Self-reflection also provided perspective about a life well lived that has little to do with education, social status, or the creature comforts too often purchased.
What we’re experiencing today challenges each of us to determine whether the nation’s noblest values are lived and what we can and should do when our country falls short.
*Paul is a personal chaplain; seminary trained, and ordained priest, and lawyer in greater Albany, NY. He’s author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.”