The news media reported last week that over 100,000 people in the U.S. have died of the Covid-19 virus. That staggering amount saddens me, as does the far reaching effect of those deaths—the thousands and thousands of persons grieving farewell, their goodbyes filled with layers of emotion. Even though I did not personally know any of the deceased individuals, their deaths became more real for me on May 24th when the New York Times published a list of 1,000 of these fatalities. With a brief identification of each person by the place they lived, along with their age and occupation, (grandmother, jazz pianist, social worker, nurse, monk in a monastery…) every name became more than just a statistic. Each was shown to be a real person, someone whose personal journey ended abruptly.
As I read the descriptions of these people, I recognized in a fresh way the insight I described in Walk in a Relaxed Manner after trekking on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. During those four weeks, I met such a variety of pilgrims from dozens of countries, pilgrims with diverse personalities. In spite of our differences, I became acutely aware that every person not only has a story, each one is a story. And deep inside our stories we are not all that dissimilar. Each of us contains hopes and dreams, struggles and sorrows, likes and dislikes, hurts and healings.
We influence each other whether we know it or not. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner refers to this in Eyes Remade for Wonder: “Each lifetime is the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. For some there are more pieces. For others the puzzle is more difficult to assemble. Some seem to be born with a nearly completed puzzle…. But know this, you do not have within yourself all the pieces to your puzzle. Everyone carries with them at least one and probably many pieces to someone else’s puzzle. Sometimes they know it. Sometimes they don’t.”
Albert Einstein also noted how we need one another: “Strange is our situation here on earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: we are here for the sake of others. Many times a day I realize how my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of so many others.”
This awareness moves me toward renewed appreciation of the human family. Each life is to be respected and valued. Within this solidarity, underneath the external aspects of humanity, our lives are intertwined. There is more that unites than divides. Beyond the vast array of personalities and behaviors, the hills and valleys of experience, there reside souls longing for the contentment each one of us desires.
Posters everywhere announce “We are all in this together.” Together. That’s more than just a good-feeling word. We have the privilege and responsibility to care for one another, not only to keep each other safe, but to support and offer kindness in every way possible. One undying Love weaves through all our lives, an invisible thread of basic goodness connecting us. Together. Could there ever be a time better than now to enliven and relish this gift?
Reproduced on the Marley Parish website by kind permission of Sister Joyce Rupp, osm.
Joyce Rupp/Servants of Mary, 1165 Office Park Rd., # 308, West Des Moines, IA 50265