I want to ask you to be gentle with yourself. Be kind in your reflections of this past year. Hold onto hope even if it seems like a charade. Three nights ago, I was feeling sad, depleted and nostalgic. It was like I was a deflated party balloon remembering how fun the party used to be but without anything left to buoy myself above the memories. I felt like I had lost my purpose.
So, I decided to YouTube how to do the “Crip Walk”. Early this past year I decided I was going to learn this dance and even tweeted it for the sake of accountability. With the looming ending of 2021 I suddenly felt the pressure to cross this off my list. There was a temporary rush of adrenaline as I watched several videos and attempted to follow the instructions. For those brief moments I had purpose. I had a goal. I was pursuing an outcome. So much of my life, whether I admit it or not, is structured by a framework of small tasks and goals. For example, I like to have the dinning floor swept before I go to sleep. I feel a sense of “completion” when the dishwasher is loaded and the hum of its internal cleaning magic permeates the soundscape of the home. I’ve recently incorporated a skin cleansing regime that has added another notch to my “self-care” Championship belt. My heart thrives when it is accomplishing something…anything.
But what happens when our world is held hostage by a virus that keeps charging towards us wave after wave? What happens to our internal world when small tasks seem laborious and big tasks seem impossible? How do we cope with the doom of powerlessness that keeps mounting? How do we find purpose at a time when social interactions are limited? We are not doing alright. We are not doing alright.
A friend recently asked me if I was flourishing. It’s a beautiful question and if I’m truly honest-I’m not. On an individual level there is health and liberation I’ve experienced this past year. But if I take a step wider outside of myself and see the suffering of others, then no; I am not flourishing. If there’s anything this pandemic has exposed it’s that we are more interconnected than we are comfortable in admitting. While that may be frightening to some it is also encouraging because it emphasizes how much we need one another. Dr. Randy Woodley, in his book, Shalom and The Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision, writes:
“Shalom is communal, holistic, and tangible. There is no private or partial shalom. The whole community must have shalom or no one has shalom. As long as there are hungry people in a community that is well fed, there can be no shalom. Where there are homeless and jobless people amidst the employed and wealthy, shalom cannot exist. Shalom must be available for everyone.”
I feel the brokenness of shalom in our city when the weather is this cold and there are people sleeping outside in tents. I feel the breaking of shalom after I have received my 3rd vaccine while the majority of nations in Africa are still struggling to get their first dose. I see shalom trampled with every protest that harasses, demeans, and attacks health care workers. We are not doing alright.
We don’t know what 2022 will be like but we know we can play a role in bringing shalom and helping others flourish, in particular those on the margins. There is urgency for us to mitigate the climate crisis our world is also experiencing. How we care for this earth and how we care for each other are inextricably linked and we are not talking enough about this. So, let’s be gentle with each other and our planet because we are not doing alright. As for learning how to Crip Walk…I’ll make that a 2022 project.
So, here’s the prayer I am entering 2022 with I’m borrowing from the book, Liturgies from Below.
Blessed Are The People
Blessed are people who are hungry
and that, from that place of dissatisfaction,
protest, resist, march, protest
before the injustices of a cruel and perverse world.
In their search for dignity and equity
they will be satiated by the grace of God
that has chosen to walk beside them.
Blessed are people who mourn
the pains that hurt their neighbours
and that, even in their own anguish,
have learned to smile and sing,
to embrace and take care of each other.
Blessed are people who are hated and despised
by those who claim to love and be faithful to their faith,
but who only care about their small spaces,
their exclusive privileges, their selective morality,
and their destructive theology of merit and prosperity.
Blessed are people who are insulted and persecuted
for sharing the liberating and inclusive message of Jesus.
Blessed are people whose wealth is not a possession
but know how to share, extend the table,
make spaces bigger, build bridges, and
make holes in the walls and plant flowers in the cracks.
Blessed are the people who have learned to laugh,
who discover beauty in simple things,
who do not know rancor,
and who sleep peacefully.