The poem below was sent to me by two different friends, so you may have already seen it. But I’m passing it on because it’s an important reminder to all of us to reach out to others as we stay socially isolated in these uncertain, frightening and anxiety-producing times.
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love--
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
~ Lynn Ungar 3/11/20
My family is currently safe and sheltered. These days of forced social distance and closures of my favorite “go to” spots mean much more time at home. This is the “someday I’ll get to this” that I’ve waited for. I can finally read books that have been stacked up on my night stand and dresser, I can organize my desk and paperwork, I can catch up on missed Netflix movies, and can spend time on the telephone and Skype and Face Time with friends, kids and grandkids that I don’t see as often as I’d like under normal circumstances. I have lots of envelopes and cards to mail to people who live far away.
While this is a time for what my friend Kay calls “Radical Self-Care,” I hope that you will also consider doing some of the following:
• Send a card or a note to a friend, a teacher who made a difference in your life, your favorite author, someone who makes you laugh, someone who helps care for your well-being (doctor, therapist, dentist, etc.), someone whose local leadership you admire, someone in a local nursing home or hospital. You get the idea.
• Skype or Face Time with long-time friends or your distant family members.
• Donate to local charities, food banks, and homeless shelters. You can order online and ship directly to those in need.
• Have food delivered to you or your family from local area restaurants that are struggling to remain in business or send restaurant-prepared meals to someone who cannot get out.
• Begin (if you haven’t already) a daily gratitude journal. Writing five gratitudes daily reminds us of the blessings in our lives at a period that can seem frightening and uncertain.
• If you are ordering books, audio books, children’s clothes, etc. consider purchasing them and having them delivered from independent bookstores and other small retailers rather than Amazon to keep small shops from closing and keep workers employed.
• If you’d like to begin journaling or continue your journaling practice, if you aren’t already receiving my free Sunday afternoon themed journaling prompts, part of my 52-week Best Self journaling program, feel free to sign up. You’ll find it more accessible than hand sanitizer and a lot safer than being in a large gathering.
I wish you safety, health and an optimism tempered by reality but not engulfed by fear. We have survived recessions, depressions, and attacks by foreign governments and at our worst times, our sense of community and caring has always surfaced above fear. I wish you peaceful days in which you find the compassion to “reach out your heart.”
Sarah Birnbach is a writer and author who shares the transformative power of journaling, providing encouragement and insights to help people on their journey to their "best self" and is the creator of the free Best Self Program.