We invite Dehonians, co-workers and other collaborators in SCJ ministry to share their personal reflections regarding the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in their lives and their communities. The following is from David Schimmel, Province Director of Dehonian Associates.
“Of all the emotions that your body is holding right now,” I asked, “which one is most prominent?” I could not see her, because this spiritual direction session was being conducted over the phone, but I could hear her heart flipping through a jumble of emotions as someone might look for a lost document in a pile of papers.
She settled on fear, but quickly clarified that she didn’t feel panicked from the constant barrage of news about the COVID 19 pandemic or from the fact that she was in the “over 60” crowd. She admitted, however, that fear felt like a constant companion. “What are you fearful of?” I gently asked. This type of question always elicits a long, hesitant pause, but she was up to it.
Almost apologetically, she replied, “I’m afraid that I’ll get sick and die, or that my husband will get sick and die, or my kids, or my grandkids, my sisters, my friends!” As if to highlight what didn’t need emphasis, she added, “It’s a scary, helpless time!” In moments such as this, a minute of pure, respectful silence is the best way to wrap a loving presence around the unimaginable.
“We both know that the fear is not going away,” I acknowledged, “But how can you directly face the fear?” She fumbled for an answer, so I tried to help. “What have you already done to face the fear?” Echoing the CDC guidelines, she explained, “I’m staying home, I’ve cancelled appointments, and I’m avoiding crowds when I have to go out.” I explained that I was looking for a more personal answer, but that did nothing to lift the fog that was rolling in.
I have learned that spiritual direction is the art of listening for the answer that a person doesn’t realize she has. So, I reflected back to her an earlier portion of our conversation when she tried to explain how much she was missing her grandkids. “You told me that you and your husband put together some things to send to your grandkids—3 and 9 years-old—and you wrote a letter to place in each envelope. You may not be able to show them your love with a hug, but you found another way. Don’t let fear dismiss this as an insignificant act.”
Grateful for the insight, she commented nostalgically, “No one writes letters anymore, it’s all texting.” By this time, it was easy to point out, “But you just did—and maybe you could do it for all those whom you want to tell, ‘I love you’.”
In this time of crisis, simple, loving gestures have infinitely more staying power than a stockpile of toilet paper.