I just had a wave of fatigue and immediately worried this cold I have is really Coronavirus.
Then I turned on a Zoom Mass and the first thing the priest said was, “During this pandemic with waves of fear and stress, feel yourself cradled in the lap of God.” I felt my shoulders drop, my gut unclench, and my jaw relax.
The theme was about searching for treasures in these difficult times. A woman giving the reflection spoke of a time in her parish, when there was one man running for President of the church council. He had an “agenda” to get rid of a Hispanic priest that he did not like. He wanted the Church to be all white. This man ran unopposed and the voting council was about to vote. Then the woman speaking told us she felt a strong wind of the Spirit, so she stood up and volunteered to run against the man. She won.
What impressed me was that she was not bragging. She spoke from a place of humility. She felt called to do a difficult thing and was glad she was in the right place at the right time. She said this was one of her treasures.
We had watched the movie, “Pollyanna” about a week ago. I had seen it as a child and liked it. I remember feeling so excited when Pollyanna won the doll she always wanted. As an adult I was more interested in the old people in the film, the ones who resist change and have a narrow, cynical view of the world.
Pollyanna is often made fun of for just seeing the good in life and minimizing or not seeing the bad. But in re-watching the film, I see she had the ability, with her positive attitude, to raise the spirits and broaden the views of the townspeople. In a way, she was able to help them see the treasures in their lives, which ended up having the ripple effect of improving the whole community.
Our communities are in upheaval. There is much pain in the fear of Covid19 as it surges in many American states. There is also much political, economic and racial strife. At the end of the movie, “I Am Not Your Negro”, James Baldwin says, “not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” One treasure out of the racial tension in the USA is that many more white people are facing the history of systemic racism in this country. One result of this is that Confederate statues and flags, symbols of slavery, are being removed.
Change is an internal process, I know. But it can be affected from the outside. An outsider, like Pollyanna, asks us to shift our view and see what treasures can be found in the mud. A brilliant writer, like James Baldwin, can help us see the realities of racism with new eyes. Eyes that can then seek the pearls of right action. Or we can be inspired by a sermon, like I was, which caused me to feel a broader sense of peace inside my heart.