Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. – Rumi
Certain times in life call for all of us — no matter our circumstances — to extend ourselves on behalf of our fellow human beings. I believe that now, in the midst of this pandemic, is one of those times. Even as we struggle with our own demons, experience our own challenges and feel helpless as we face the magnitude of the global crisis at hand, we have something to give.
While we may be willing or eager to help our neighbors, community members, and loved ones far and near, it can be hard to know what to do. Words like those of the Sufi mystic Rumi can provide guidance.
Be a lamp.
Lamps serve as a source of light in the darkness. Is there anyone in your life who is afraid of the dark? Or for whom darkness takes on a particularly damp and gloomy hue? How can you be a source of light for them? Perhaps a letter, or a phone call, or a vase of daffodils left on their porch could brighten up their day. A thing to remember: a lamp is not a strobe-light, or even a bright overhead light. Being a lamp for someone doesn’t involve removing their darkness, but rather, joining them in it with the warm glow of companionship, love and care.
Be a lifeboat.
People can drown in many substances other than water. I know that I, at one time or another, have felt suffocated by the obligations of work and family life, worry about my loved ones, and concern for the health of the planet. Do you know anyone who is now managing full-time work and full-time childcare? Or whose personal and familial health makes them vulnerable to not only the virus but also the accompanying fear and anxiety? Even in a time of social distancing, there are ways to be a raft for these individuals. Send an e-gift card for takeout, if you are able, or provide a listening ear at the time of their choosing. Drowning is an isolating experience, and a lifeboat can be the necessary reminder that we aren’t alone in this struggle.
Be a ladder.
A ladder enables a person to rise higher. At uncertain and unsettling times like these ones, who couldn’t use a lift? Leave a thank you note for your mail carrier or garbage collector. Provide positive feedback for the grocery store clerk who totaled your purchases. Send a positive email to your son or daughter’s teacher who is likely juggling many other life pieces as she attempts to instruct your child remotely. Raise the people in your life with words of affirmation and gratitude.
Reflect: What can you be this week — a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder? For whom can you provide a warm glow, a reminder of safety, or a lift upwards?
Teresa Coda works as a Director of Faith Formation at a Catholic Church, dabbles in interfaith hospital chaplaincy, and writes about life and spirituality. She has a Masters in Divinity from Harvard Divinity School where she studied theology and pastoral care and counseling. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband Caleb, her daughter Esther and her Boston terrier Bean.