Laura Solomon is the clergy intern at the Washington Ethical Society in Washington, DC, and an M.Div. student at Meadville Lombard Theological School. She believes in the profound beauty of connection and community, and the power to transform ourselves and our world when we join together to act about issues that matter. Laura lives in Sykesville, MD with her dog, Marshall.
"Your grandparents were called to war. You’re being called to sit on your couch."—Internet meme
While it’s true that we are not being called to war, it's also true that these are challenging times. I would argue that some of us are being called to do far more than sit on our couch. Most of us, in fact. All of us, probably.
I understand this meme: we need humor. We need to poke fun at this extraordinary situation, and it's healthy to do so. But we also need to be extraordinarily gentle with one another. Excessively gentle. Tender, even.
Some of us are being called to serve vulnerable communities. Some of us are being called to provide comfort, care, and support in new, challenging ways. Some of us are medical professionals and first responders taking risks. Some of us are accompanying the dying. Some of us are holding the fragile mental health of children and adults. Some of us are scared for ourselves, or for our children, or for our parents. Some of us are out of work. Some of us don’t know how we will pay our rent. Some of us are uninsured and scared. Some of us will need to spend days at home entertaining children—which presents myriad challenges for our own mental health, or our child’s mental health. None of us are unaffected.
Years ago, I did one of those mud run obstacle races. I didn’t struggle much with the actual physical obstacles (or the mud), but I had a moment of utter panic when I realized I had to change my clothes in a big tent where there was no privacy. My friend had her moment of struggle when we were in line and she had no choice but to wait patiently. My biggest learning was that while there were eight physical obstacles on the course, we all had a ninth obstacle.
That’s kind of what’s happening right now: COVID-19 has imposed eight obstacles that we're all contending with. But we each have nine—or more—obstacles. You have no idea what anyone else’s ninth obstacle (or tenth, or eleventh) is. You just know they have it.
We have no choice but to be gentle…excessively, generously, powerfully gentle.