by Sandy Stickney, March 28, 2020
I am so grateful for the CBC—a community of smart people who help us name our reality. Naramata is also a community of smart people. Last night a friend told me how the CBC was teaching us to speak of Physical distancing and Social connection rather than social distancing. Social distancing is not good for people. Physical distancing is now very important for us. The explanation most helpful to me described the tiny molecules of moisture that we breathe out with each exhalation. Like everything else, these are subject to gravity and will fall to the ground within 6 feet or 2 meters.
If you have ever tried to read the Bible, you probably started at the beginning. You probably got through the lovely story of creation—it makes a beautiful picture book –at least until people come along. Right there, in that ancient story designed to answer a child’s question, “Where did we come from?” or anyone’s question “who and what are we?”—perhaps as they tried to understand human violence or hardship or cruelty—As soon as people were first made, God learned it was not good for them to be alone.
The next thing God learned is that we are not likely to obey an order. We have curiosity built in and we will push any limits imposed on us. We need stories to help us understand the why of things—like I need the image of those microscopic creatures that form the COVID 19 virus, falling to the ground, rather than landing on another person—to understand the need for physical distance.
I know some will want to argue with me about that take on the Bible but everything I’ve learned about our Hebrew ancestors in faith is that they were very practical people. Their wise teachers gave them the stories they needed to live well and not destroy one another when times were tough. For the Hebrew/Jewish people, times were almost always tough. They were people who noticed others—people who took on the understanding that strangers were more likely to be friends you hadn’t met yet than enemies. It was never enough to just look out for ourselves. We must look out for all the selves—always drawing the circles of care wide, and wider still. (Yes, I have borrowed that expression from my friend Gordon Light’s song “Draw the Circle Wide”).
Because we are human, we want to draw small circles. We want “enough” to be in our reach. We need to rest. We have always had trouble around the edges and we still do. We tend to divide and search for who’s in and who’s out. It is a relief to have some we do not need to care about. For those who are inclined to pay attention, this is only ever a temporary relief. Any time we want to draw a border, when we look, we will see that those beyond our line, are also human and lovely and dear and like us or like the people we want to be becoming. Those forces of curiosity, compassion, kind regard, are part of what I name God. Those unseen things that help us connect and not destroy one another.
I have found myself saying often in our little church on the corner of 3rd and Robinson, if there is any kind of list of who does not matter, your name will be on it. Please tear up your lists of any who do not matter. We are all in this adventure together. Please carry on with all your radical acts of kindness—and understand that when you smile and wave as you walk or drive by, you are doing something radically powerful. Yours may be the smile, or the gaze that lifts another whether either one of you are consciously aware of it or not. As that greeting gets passed on, you may save someone’s life. Paying attention to friends and strangers is that important.
A few weeks ago I took a two day course in “Mental Health First Aid.” My certificate arrived in the mail yesterday. Over two days we learned to Assess for any danger to self or others. (We learned to keep ourselves and others safe and to call for help as needed!) The next step is to Listen without judgement. Help people say what they need to say and just hear them. Give reassurance—let them know they are not alone. Then encourage them to Engage appropriate professional supports. This may be difficult or surprisingly easy. Along with that there is encourage people to Engage other support—help people remember those already in their circles of care. Encourage them to trust their near and dear ones with how they are feeling or what is going on with them. Encourage them to listen to others. This class is called “First aid” – sometimes the most important thing is someone who will hear us without judgement. I’ve been thinking of this as a band aid, a first step in protecting a wound while it heals. Often what we need most is to speak that which is leaving us speechless. Once it gets outside of our ruminations, even once, we can gain the courage to tell it again and sometimes even let it move outside of us for good. When we see it, and hear it, we can figure out what to do next.
It was lovely to take the Mental Health First Aid course live—and I recommend it to you. The organization is MHFA—I bet they are offering the course in an on-line format or are working on that. In the mean time, please keep listening. And if you want to talk to someone committed to listening without judgement, you are welcome to call me. Sandy or Sandra Stickney (please use the name you know or whichever rolls most easily for you) 250 496-4293. I’m mostly at home these days. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will reply—not instantly like phone texting—but as soon as I see your message.
We have also been enjoying meetings by Zoom and are doing our Sunday morning worship that way. You are most welcome to join us. Sundays Mar 29, 2020 to May 3 09:50 AM. We’ll start at 10
Join Zoom Meeting: https://zoom.us/j/672068838
or phone in: +1 778 907 2071 Canada Meeting ID: 672 068 838
I pray joy for you. Keep breathing. It is so good and so important that you are alive right here and right now. If you are in any doubt of that, please tell someone. Let their love, let our love, hold you, even from a distance.
Love to you all,
(Rev’d) Sandra Stickney,
Naramata Community Church, a Shared Ministry of the Anglican and United Church