I usually enjoy retrospectives – looking back to capture the essence of a season we’ve enjoyed or endured.
Not this one, though. I have little interest in revisiting the heartbreaking images of mobile morgues, sobbing healthcare workers, violent US Capitol terrorists, and murdered defenseless black US citizens. Our emotional guardrails have been severely damaged, and we’ve lost our minds, more or less, in these past twelve months.
Can we get them back?
Thankfully the vaccine rollout and the American Rescue Plan will go a long way to healing our broken minds and souls. I couldn’t believe what a relief it was to receive my second shot. It felt like the nurse injected me with hope along with the medicine. Returning to church last weekend was cathartic.
And I have no doubt that the infusion of cash into desperate lives will, at least for the time being, pull many despairing folks back from the ledge of disaster.
But injections and dollars are simply not going to be enough to bring back sanity and peace. Yes, time will heal many wounds, but something much stronger is needed. Something with mystical supernatural powers and a limitless supply.
We’ve needed it all along. But in our hunkering down, self-protective, politically stupid reactions to the trauma of this past year we’ve neglected love. At the risk of being a tad patronizing and eye-roll generating (since you already know all this stuff), here is a primer on the definition of love that will help us recover our lost minds and soothe our frantic souls.
What we need to accompany vaccines and stimulus checks is…
- Love that sounds like encouragement.
Starting small, why don’t we send a few text messages, emails or old school written notes with simple encouraging thoughts like “was thinking of you” or “have missed you” or honestly ask “how are you?” We can graduate our encouragement to the always powerful “here’s what I see in you” – words of affirmation and praise. Then, when the coast is clear, repeat these modest statements of reassurance face to face over coffee.
- Love that persists with simple acts of kindness.
Like the kindness personified in the continued wearing of a mask in public. Nothing says “I love you” like a K94! Or the small acts of deference, “No, you go first!” And the persistent use of “please and thank you.” (See, you’re rolling your eyes now, but c’mon, we’ve forgotten how to act with kindergarten level thoughtfulness.) And again, as things open up we can move on to bigger acts of love, like taking cupcakes and shoveling mulch.
- Love that changes the dialogue from “you’re a *******” to “I’d be curious to know.”
Name calling, pigeonholing and cancelling have been the soul crushing, mind numbing results of our ideological extremism. Politics have been weaponized. We have become insufferable. The insurrectionist attack on the Capitol was inevitable. Why were we surprised? Let’s take a page out of my friend Jim Henderson’s playbook and engage each other in hard conversations with the brilliant lead-in statement “I’d be curious to know…” and then shut up long enough to hear. It’s a game changer.
- Love that feels like time spent together.
Confession. When the pandemic began, we tried all kinds of ways to connect safely. Shivering birthday parties outside around a bonfire, family Zoom calls, quarantining for two weeks to prepare for gathering and getting tested along the way. But, frankly, it all got to be too much. And as the virus raged in the winter, we hunkered down more than ever and actually stopped trying to connect with people. I, personally, succumbed to extreme introversion out of a mix of fear and weariness. This has to change. While still taking great care, we must reengage with one another.
Yesterday, fully vaccinated, I had a painful and delightful reunion with an old friend. Over breakfast we shared our anguish and fears, we said kind words to one another and asked probing questions. And we even smiled a bit. A wonderful restart.
And I took my grandson, Jude, to a hockey game. Masked and far removed from other spectators, we cheered and sang and shared Mike and Ikes.
It felt so good. And I think I got a little bit of my mind back.