During this time of isolation, I have been reading some books that I keep meaning to read. I just finished His Dark Materials trilogy written by Philip Pullman. Towards the end of the trilogy the main character Lyla says this:
If you help everyone… to learn and understand about themselves and each other and the way everything works, and by showing them how to be kind instead of cruel, and patient instead of hasty, and cheerful instead of surly, and above all how to keep their minds open and free and curious… then they will renew what is lost…
I think – by and large – I’m fairly kind and patient… now that menopause is over, that is! 😊 But cheerful is a struggle for me… and I’ve been asking myself why that is.
I see the world not in all its beauty and grandeur, but through the eyes of the people I have been working with all my adult life… homeless people, battered women, abused children, rape victims, families with no job or housing in North Carolina, and here in Nicaragua those families who are desperately poor. People who struggle and labor day-in and day-out, not to get ahead, but to just survive.
With the Coronavirus coming to Nicaragua, I see all the problems and not enough solutions to address what is in store for Nicaragua… a country still under U.S. sanctions though the United Nations is calling sanctions criminal in times like these…. a country that is the 2nd poorest country in the Western Hemisphere so there is no trillion dollar bail-outs for anyone… and a country that only gets negative press from international media (so who is going to want to help them?).
Being genuinely cheerful is needed in these times more than ever, but I can’t do it… I can fake it, but not feel it.
Let me be clear, I KNOW I have much to be thankful for: wonderful children and grandchildren, a community, a mother who is here with us, amazing friends and support systems, food, housing, and Mike, my beloved, who loves me cheerful or grumpy… all the time. I am extremely fortunate. I know that. And if I die from this virus, which is possible with my asthma and compromised immune system, I die knowing our children are loved, our grandchildren have awesome parents, our community will support each other as will our friends, and I have been blessed with the love of my husband. I have felt the grace of God.
But… but where is God for all those who have not been so fortunate… for the poor?
Where is God for those now isolated at home with abusive parents and partners, and for the elderly with abusive children?
Where is God for the thousands without ventilators scared to death as they gasp to breathe in life-saving oxygen?
Where is God for the exhausted nurses, doctors, and technicians standing helplessly by watching people die, knowing that they could have helped them if only they had the tools?
Where is God for the homeless who cannot be isolated and have nowhere to go?
I’ve seen on social media postings about how this is all part of God’s plan. I know it is hard to feel helpless… I get that better than most people who have grown up in the United States of America… but wishing for God to have a plan is just another way of grasping at control. We can learn from those who have lived through horrific times when God was lost.
Elie Wiesel, the author of Night, wrote this about watching a hanging in the concentration camp:
One day as we returned from work, we saw three gallows, three black ravens, erected on the Applepaltz. Roll call. The SS surrounding us, machine guns aimed at us: the usual ritual. Three prisoners in chains - and, among them, the little pipel, the sad-eyed angel. The SS seem more preoccupied, more worried than usual. To hang a child in front of thousands of onlookers was not a small matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was pale, almost calm, but he was biting his lips as he stood in the shadow of the gallows. This time, the Lagerkapo refused to act as an executioner. Three SS took his place. The three condemned prisoners together stepped onto the chairs. In unison, the nooses were placed around their necks. 'Long live liberty!' Shouted the two men. But the boy was silent. ‘Where is merciful God, where is He?' someone behind me was asking. At the signal, the three chairs were tipped over. Total silence in the camp. On the horizon the sun was setting. 'Caps off!' Screamed the Lagerälteste. His voice quivered. As for the rest of us, we were weeping. 'Cover your heads!' Then came the march past the victims. The two men were no longer alive. Their tongues were hanging out, swollen and bluish. But the third rope was still moving; the child, too light, was still breathing... And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes. And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet extinguished. Behind me, I heard the same man asking: 'For God's sake, where is God?' And from within me, I heard a voice answer: ‘Where is he? This is where - hanging here from this gallows....'"
Where is God? With the partners and children afraid and beaten, isolated in their homes.
Where is God? With the people gasping for air.
Where is God? With the nurses, doctors, and technicians working and watching helplessly.
Where is God? With the poor who have no safety nets, no food, and so much pain.
Where is God? Always amidst the suffering.
This does not make me cheerful, but I know when all is lost and I feel the most helpless, God is with me… and for now, that is enough to allow me to smile and laugh... Occasionally.
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