#6: Send Out Love and Compassion, In These Turbulent Times
Well, that was interesting. Waking around 7:10 this morning, preparing my thoughts to finish up this 6-part series, suddenly felt my house shaking and swaying. It only lasted for about 10 seconds. But in this age of Covid-19 and its impact, the reality of an earthquake was particularly sobering.
Within a few minutes afterward, I got an anxious voicemail from a daughter who felt the impact longer than we did, since she lives closer to the epicenter of the quake. Our local radio station reported impact being felt throughout a broad area affecting many cities around the epicenter - resulting in a few power outages, but no reported damage anywhere. Facebook was flooded with similar reports, from friends frightened by the quake, but unhurt. I quickly phoned all my children to make sure everyone was safe, which they were. A friend from one of my classes shot me a message on Facebook messenger, asking "Are you OK?" I told him we were all fine, he assured me that his family was as well.
And then my heart felt happy. And peaceful. And grateful. First of all, that we were all unhurt. And second, that I live in an age where in a matter of seconds, we can check in with loved ones (even many miles away), get news updates clarifying the breadth and intensity of the event, and express love, concern, and connection by means of the many unique communication channels available to us.
What king, queen, or emperor throughout all of human history has had access to such treasures? Even the richest and most powerful beings in prior ages bore the trials of life largely alone, or with just the information and support of those living close to them. We, on the other hand, enjoy literally worldwide networks of information, connection, and support. I've never appreciated that reality more than today.
Human Caring - The Great Antidote to Almost Everything
This experience has reinforced lessons from throughout my life, and throughout the history of humanity. Basically, whatever we go through in this world, however difficult or harsh it may be, is more bearable if we go through it together.
In the face of adversity, in the sting of disappointment, in the agony of defeat, in the devastation of loss or grief - we bounce back the easiest and most quickly if we are able to bounce ideas off each other, and give and receive support to each other in the midst of our hardships.
Certainly we all face rough patches at times, when we have to get through our hard things alone, relying only on our own grit, faith, and will. But those experiences are relatively rare. Far more often, we can draw on the strength of others around us to help us through our hardships. And perhaps even more significantly - we can find within ourselves strength and resolve, wisdom and courage, as we reach out in compassion to others in the midst of their hardships. As we extend comfort and kindness to others, even in the midst of hard times, we ourselves find comfort and strength within, to shore us up.
How Human Connection Transforms Experience
In the midst of this current Covid-19 challenge, we are seeing a growing phenomenon that has arisen before, in times of great shared trouble. While there is an ever-present temptation to respond selfishly, thinking only of oneself or one's own sorrows or concerns - (for example, hoarding ALL the remaining toilet paper in the store!) - there lies also within us the capacity for something better. It is what I witnessed yet again this morning, in the midst of this recent quake. It is - people reaching beyond their own fear, beyond their own sorrow - to extend compassion and support to someone else.
We have seen that before. We saw it in the smoldering ashes of New York City, on 9-11, and in the terrible aftermath of that devastating crisis. People coming together, to help each other, to support each other, and express caring for each other. People coming even from out of state, risking their own lives and wellbeing to help search for survivors, carry out rescue efforts, and provide relief and comfort to people they'd never met before. That example of a community coming together in the midst of shattering tragedy remains a gleaming example of what we have in us to do, and to be.
Likewise, In his timeless classic, "Man's Search for Meaning," psychiatrist Viktor Frankl reported what he observed in the World War II Nazi concentration camps. In those terrifying shared circumstances, under the shadow and stench of death, some members of the camp went out of their way to spread caring and compassion to others. They would share their last crust of bread, though they still hungered themselves. They would express kindness and assurance to others, though they themselves were just as much at risk. From their faces gleamed the light of audacious caring - caring against all odds, caring that could not be extinguished by the harsh environment around them.
In Person or Electronically - Caring & Connection in Our Time
In our time, besides direct in-person caring, we have the unique blessing of being able to reach out from a safe distance, through those new technologies unique to our age. Even in a time of expanding "social distance," those expressions of caring and community have resonated through the airwaves, by means of television and radio, text and email, social media and podcast.
It has been beautiful to observe the strength of community and connection expressed among us - even in the midst of widespread quarantining and "social distancing." Whether in person or electronically, those human connections sustain us now, and will continue to sustain us in the weeks, months, and years to come. Both the connections that we receive - and, perhaps even more importantly, the connections we ourselves extend to others - lift our spirits, and bolster our strength and courage.
Caring is the ultimate form of empowerment. Like the parent who receives superhuman strength to lift a heavy object off of their entrapped child - our concern for others lifts us beyond ourselves, and beyond our natural limits and fears.
Caring about doesn't just help the others we serve. It helps us to stay strong, steady, and confident, even in the midst of the swirling storms around us.
Lift Up Love's Umbrella, On This Rainy Day
The last few days, I've been thinking about a song I wrote for a troubled family member a few years ago. She was struggling with some significant health challenges that left her bedridden, dependent, and miserable. She a normally active, vibrant person who loved being out and about, with many friends and activities. Now, she felt trapped in a crushing set of new circumstances, that limited her activity, cut off access to her loved ones, and left her feeling alone, scared, and powerless.
The song I wrote for her back then has been a comfort for me over these recent days and weeks, as we go through this Covid-19 crisis together, feeling many of these same difficult emotions. If anything, the message of this song is even more relatable to this current challenge, since we're all facing it together, simultaneously:
Series Conclusion: Covid-19, Emotions, and You
None of us know how this will all turn out. But in the midst of the uncertainty, the transitions, the losses - we can make things better, for ourselves, and others around us. We can grow in new ways - mentally, physically, spiritually, socially, and emotionally. We can develop new capacities and strengths, increasing our lifetime ability to help ourselves and others.
These positive response patterns discussed in this series can help us not only get through our current challenge, but can better equip us for all the opportunities and challenges ahead, as we proceed onward through our life's journey.
#1: Prepare, But Don't Catastrophize: Turning Crisis Into Growth
#2: Build Meaningful Social Connections - Even with "Social Distancing"
#3: Find Peace in Something Bigger Than Just You
#4: Up Your Game: Taking Better Care of Yourself Physically
#5: Recognize and Embrace the Positive - Even in Hard Times
#6: Send Out Love and Compassion, In These Turbulent Times
As you develop these capacities in yourself and your loved ones, you may look back on our shared "Covid-19 crisis" with appreciation, for all it has taught you, and the strengths it helped you discover and develop.
Much love and peace, and... stay safe out there!
-- Carrie M. Wrigley, LCSW
Counselor, Speaker, and Author of
Your Happiness Toolkit: 16 Strategies for Overcoming Depression,
and Building a Joyful, Fulfilling Life
> Available as a paperbook, ebook, or audiobook.