The virus loots our lives relentlessly. The excruciating flash of obituaries. The sickness, or the fear of it. The great unknowing. The pain and loss imposed on those we love.
A friend lays quarantined in a New York City hospital room, separated from his family and friends, anxious, frail. Across the Hudson River, another buried his dad this week, grieving in an empty funeral home.
A young person woke with fever at one of our Covenant House shelters, and now sleeps in an isolation room fashioned from a classroom, separated from her roommates, talking through a mask. A young woman gave birth to her first child without family or friends in the delivery room to coach & comfort.
A young mother in Texas ran from store to store, leaving empty-handed, blinking back tears because the infant formula she immediately needs is gone.
This virus raged into our lives, armed, closing the shades, turning off the lights & pummeling us into our corners, hostages. The days offer a mixture of exhaustion, dread, uncertainty, frustration & isolation. This is not as we imagined the world in Springtime. Not at all.
We could leave it there.
And yet, from our corners, if we look carefully, we may see Love moving about, as freely and easily as it ever did.
Into my friend’s hospital room came a team of doctors and nurses many times a day who are tender with him. They pour their passion and purpose into saving his life.
And the director of my friend’s father’s funeral did not stay away as he may have otherwise. He joined the mourning, understanding the privilege of his proximity.
The young woman in quarantine at our Covenant House shelter sipped tea with one of our quietly heroic social workers, singing together a favorite song. She sleeps tonight with a mask donated by a newly-unemployed costume seamstress who filled her time with love’s labor. Though feverish, the young woman sips chicken soup made from a recipe created by the chef’s late grandmother, hopping through space and time, as only Love does.
The soon-to-be-mother puffed and pushed, video-conferencing on her phone with a beloved mentor whose voice navigated and soothed. When at last she held her wiggling infant close to her exhausted heart, all three of them - mother, mentor & baby -wept at the joy of it all.
A box arrived on the doorstep of that Texas mother, filled by a young Jesuit volunteer, with groceries & infant formula. Despite the virus, the volunteer continued to help vulnerable families who depend on her, like countless frontline workers around the globe.
And a pair of boys at one of our shelters, overhearing a conversation about the need for more masks, offered the staff $46 - all the money they had - to buy them. Staff declined that offer, and reassured the boys all will be well.
This virulent virus, a thief-in-the-night, is wreaking havoc, inflicting misery and holding us hostage. Yes. Worse agony may be ahead of us. There is no way to know for certain. But I do know this: the boundless, beautiful, bounty of love is battle-ready.
Love is restocking grocery shelves, rushing the sick to hospitals, building ventilators, helping the ill, mourning the fallen, housing the vulnerable, singing and sewing for good, racing to find a vaccine: generously, gorgeously lifting the shades & turning on the lights.
Take heart. While the virus has us afraid and cornered, Love has something else in mind entirely, if we choose it.