The award-winning song We Are The World, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, is an anthem for our time. On January 21, 1985, the most well-known artists in the music industry, under the direction of Quincy Jones, came together to support USA for Africa, bringing awareness and financial relief to the famine in Africa. It was a gesture of solidarity that is a reminder for us now and always. Listen here:
“There comes a time
When we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one.”
I have friends or family living in many countries–Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Czechia, Belgium, Spain, Canada, Argentina, Australia—and in all regions of the United States from California to New York, Washington to Arkansas. Being Benedictine has followers and visitors from over 75 countries. In the Benedictine Confederation, there are hundreds of monasteries and thousands of monks, nuns, sisters, and oblates in every part of the world.
No matter where we call home, we are connecting with each other on social media, Zoom, Skype and Facetime to check in with each other, to ask how it’s going, to send a word of encouragement, to offer help. Never have we ALL been in such shared circumstances like this.
(First verse continued)
“There are people dying.”
An inevitability, St. Benedict reminds us to keep death daily before our eyes. But even that advice feels different now. The pandemic underscores our connectedness that we don’t take stock of regularly. Collectively we are staring death in the eyes. Depending on where we live, we are on varying points of “the curve” with differing strategies from our governments and medical professionals to “flatten the curve.”
(First verse continued)
“Oh, and it’s time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all.”
If we are physically healthy, we must ask ourselves how we can offer our blessings and gifts, to lend a helping hand and contribute to the healing of our world.
(First verse continued)
“We can’t go on
That someone, somewhere will soon make a change
We’re all a part of God’s great big family
And the truth, you know, love is all we need.”
So, what can we offer in this time of sheltering in place, of pandemic and quarantine, of uncertainty and surrender?
“Listen carefully to the master’s instructions and attend to them with the ear of your heart,” St. Benedict instructs. The Divine gives guidance based on our personal gifts and limitations, we need only to listen. St. Benedict continues, “First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection.” Whatever blessing you can offer, pray that your good works will be used well. I am mindful that not everyone can give in the same way and not everyone needs to. I write knowing full well that I am privileged—I have a home, food, income—what I am able to give is different than what others can. And that’s okay.
Whatever we can give, should be done with a listening and cheerful heart.
Some possibilities—Run errands for a neighbor (using good physical distancing in public), write letters or make phone calls to loved ones. Chalk your driveway and sidewalk to share greetings with people who are walking by. Although harder on my knees than I remembered, it was a good physical activity!
Wave to your neighbors! Last evening, our neighborhood gathered on our respective balconies at 6pm to wave and shout greetings; when a neighbor rung a bell, we went to our front yards to shout hellos as well. Note: our neighbor dog Bella has a blue beard from sidewalk chalk.
I’m a SoulCollage® facilitator, so I am leaving gift bags of images and supplies on the porch for people to pick up on request to try a prayerful, creative activity (an idea I got from SoulCollage® friend, Deb Richards).
“We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving.”
If you can get out into your community, the possibilities are endless, but even sheltering in place, one can find ways to bless others. and make the day brighter! Most importantly, regardless of our unique situations, we can pray for healing in the world, send blessings, and sing the song of praise below. This may be our greatest gift.
“Oh, send them your heart
So they know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free
As God has shown us by turning stones to bread
And so we all must lend a helping hand.”
Praise be the nurses and doctors, every medical staff bent over flesh to offer care, for lives saved and lives lost, for showing up either way,
Praise for the farmers, tilling soil, planting seeds so food can grow, an act of hope if ever there was,
Praise be the janitors and garbage collectors, the grocery store clerks, and the truck drivers barreling through long quiet nights,
Give thanks for bus drivers, delivery persons, postal workers, and all those keeping an eye on water, gas, and electricity,
Blessings on our leaders, making hard choices for the common good, offering words of assurance,
Celebrate the scientists, working away to understand the thing that plagues us, to find an antidote, all the medicine makers, praise be the journalists keeping us informed,
Praise be the teachers, finding new ways to educate children from afar, and blessings on parents holding it together for them,
Blessed are the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, all those who worry for their health, praise for those who stay at home to protect them,
Blessed are the domestic violence victims, on lock down with abusers, the homeless and refugees,
Praise for the poets and artists, the singers and storytellers, all those who nourish with words and sound and color,
Blessed are the ministers and therapists of every kind, bringing words of comfort,
Blessed are the ones whose jobs are lost, who have no savings, who feel fear of the unknown gnawing,
Blessed are those in grief, especially who mourn alone, blessed are those who have passed into the Great Night,
Praise for police and firefighters, ambulance drivers, and all who work to keep us safe, praise for all the workers and caregivers of every kind,
Praise for the sound of notifications, messages from friends reaching across the distance, give thanks for laughter and kindness,
Praise be our four-footed companions, with no forethought or anxiety, responding only in love,
Praise for the seas and rivers, forests and stones who teach us to endure,
Give thanks for your ancestors, for the wars and plagues they endured and survived, their resilience is in your bones, your blood,
Praise every moment of stillness and silence, so new voices can be heard, praise the chance at slowness,
Praise be the birds who continue to sing the sky awake each day, praise for the primrose poking yellow petals from dark earth,
Blessed are the dolphins returning to Venice canals, the sky clearing overhead so one day we can breathe deeply again,
And when this has passed may we say that love spread more quickly than any virus ever could, may we say this was not just an ending but also a place to begin.
Feel free to share in the comments more blessings that you would add to the prayer above and/or ideas to lend a helping hand.
We are the world.
We are the children.