Written by Takako Terino, Menaul School Chaplain
Thanks to everyone working together, we have kept our campus a healthy and safe place. It has not been without cost, however. Having to wear our masks all the time, the constant reminder to keep the social distance and other safety rules, as well as having to deal with online tools for remote learning that don’t always work perfectly can wear us out. And when we are not at school, we find ourselves living in a country in a state of turmoil; we hear the cries of our neighbors and feel their pain and perhaps our own, too. Many of us have people in our lives we worry about and care for, so we carry not only our own burden but also those of others. We are holding so much these days, for ourselves and for others… are you exhausted, or perhaps feeling numb?
Recently in chapel, you’ve heard me talk a lot about how we are always being held in God’s mighty, loving hands. In trying times like this, though, you may roll your eyes at such notion, since our experience seem to point to God’s absence, rather presence. I’ve also talked about how God works not only in us individually, but also through us collectively as a community, so that my wellbeing is bound up with yours, usually beyond our awareness or imagination.
Here is a small moment that showed me God’s grace unfolding in this way. On the trail that I run early in the morning, I do not come across many others, but when I do, whether they are runners, hikers or mountain-bikers, I put on my mask as soon as I see or hear them in the distance, and they usually do the same for me and we often wave to each other in acknowledgment, as if to say “thank you!” We are otherwise strangers, but in that brief encounter, we feel mutually cared for. In that moment, I am holding them and being held by them, and that’s a wonderful feeling enough to keep me going the rest of the day.
This weekend, though, I went on a different, more popular trail and was surprised to see many people not wearing their masks, and I realized this is true in many parts of our country right now. While many people put up with the inconvenience of always having to wear a mask when in public, there are others who would not, maybe because they don’t believe it does any good or perhaps because they feel like they are being forced to give up their individual freedom. It may well be that a good number of them haven’t gotten ill, because they’ve been protected by those who wear mask around them. It may not even occur to them, though, that they are being cared for in a way that they do not see. They may have the satisfaction of holding onto their individual freedom, but when the entire society is going through such turmoil, healing and comfort is possible only when we become aware that we, too, are being held by others. Gratitude heals us and moves us to heal others, and that’s how God’s grace flows among us.
So, when you feel like you are doing all the holding, for yourself and for others, and it is getting too much, take a moment to consider that you, too, are being held in ways that are hidden from you.