Now can be a challenging time to be a human. A global pandemic has killed over 4 million of us and infected over 200 million, with no signs yet that the number of cases or deaths is abating. The United States of America has just become the most recent foreign government to exit Afghanistan after a lengthy ground war. Whether that country can meet its many challenges remains to be seen. Within the USA, recent severe weather has caused deaths and destruction in nearly every region, with floods in the South and East and wildfires in the West. There are so far few indication that widespread wars, deaths, or destruction are likely to end any time soon.
Now is the season in the part of the globe where I live when children return to school after a traditional summer break. On a recent weekend, I volunteered with a group of parents and community members to help clean the outdoor spaces at my granddaughter’s elementary school before the start of classes. Time spent at the campus gave me a broader exposure to the school than I’d earlier gotten while picking her up at her classroom. Many classroom doors had inspirational sayings written beneath the teacher’s name. Some were fairly pat, “You’re amazing;” “You’re awesome;” “You can do it;” etc.
One door had an inscription that was new to me: “Sometimes You Win; Sometimes You Learn.” A brief internet search showed the slogan as the title of a book written by American motivational speaker, consultant and pastor John C. Maxwell in 2013. I haven’t yet read the book; I was favorably disposed toward it after learning that its foreword was written by former basketball coach John Wooden of UCLA fame.
If there has been one positive aspect to the covid-19 pandemic for me so far, it’s been the motivation to spend an increasing proportion of my waking hours outdoors. Public health officials counsel outdoor activity, especially socially distanced outdoor activity, as one aspect of an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Along with the use of face masks, reduced crowd size at both indoor and outdoor events, contact tracing, and vaccination, the use of the outdoors for as many activities as practical is recommended.
I love to garden. For me, putting seeds in the soil and having plants later appear is little short of miraculous. I also love to participate in group singing. Now that most choirs are virtual, I’ve developed a pandemic ritual of listening to recordings of favorite hymns. A special blessing in this challenging time has been the lyric “Earth Was Given As a Garden.” (You can listen to one version at youtube.com/watch?v=hmlV65kdt84, a recording by the UU Chancel Choir of Oakland, CA.) When I’ve had a discouraging day, the final few lines help renew my hope:
“…bid our waste and warfare cease,
Fill us all with grace o’erflowing,
Teach us how to live in peace.”