Peace In The Time Of CoronaVirus

In Mid-March, only days ago, after the meaning of the CoronaVirus impact became clear, and we feared for life, and markets crashed, and people began hoarding, one of VEC’s board members shared at our virtual meeting with an abrupt and quivering voice a business associate had just committed suicide in the face of his immediate and projected personal losses. At that moment, for myself, and I’m sure for others within that following awkward silence, in the hearing of this ultimate tragedy, all the recent glimpses of peoples’ floating fear, anxiety, grief, and creeping depression and despair, converged to present the depth of this thing we are confronting.

The CoronaVirus is infecting our sense of well -being. To be sure, death and loss has always ushered utter disorientation, and this age, this culture is not immune. The communities we walk with and serve at VEC, refugees, immigrants, and the poor in our neighborhood have, in varying degrees, already dealt with death, violence, displacement, and loss. I search for how the current existential upheaval is being experienced. Anecdotally, there seems a predominance of courage and hope, something to unpack, perhaps another time.

We are all afraid, and anxious within the tensions of our knowing and unknowing, and where we experience loss, we grieve. These are all-natural responses, designed, if you will, to spur us, to help us to look, to re-examine, to re-evaluate, and to re-engage. To the extent any of us shut down in depression and despair, and are not moving toward re-engagement, we are at risk for our well-being and life.
This is a time to look for and help our neighbors who are showing signs of being at emotional risk. Our collective focus right now, necessarily so, is physical survival; there is no helping someone who is dead. Now, after the initial shock, it bears on us, in addition to the critical address of bodily survival, to simultaneously look for neighbors and ways to serve our total human well-being in the face of ultimate threats and loss.

Peace is the overflow of well-being. In the first Christian centuries, peace was not understood as a subjective, individual or private experience, as we understand today. Rather, it was understood as a condition of communion, of connectivity, of being in relationship, resting, being healed, in the safety and fulfillment of whatever it is we are, but is only discovered and secured in being together. Here, the “Rest in Peace” of ancient memorials means the enjoyment of a communion of being and persons. From a faith perspective, relationality is the ground that opens to, is buoyed by, a relational transcendence, where a Life of life sustains, is for us, and is guiding us all together. But whether one believes in a transcendent God or not, the engagement of being in relationship, in mutuality, and a sense of belonging, is life-encompassing, and life-giving in itself. A sense of belonging is universally, before any attributions, an experience of safety, general purpose and joy.

The help and solicitation of our friends and associates who are at emotional risk, who are emotionally removed and isolated, will involve strategies to connect them to bring them into relationships. This is more than merely a fix to get by, to survive, although that, for the moment, however strategic and tentative, is legitimate, but moving into relationship is the future, is humanizing, is an increase of what we are, and our well-being. The first exposure and anchor of the strategy to help another is yourself, a person of care, who presents an orientation. The realm of possible directions will be selected from the world of your friend, your world, and the world shared. It will require allowing the following of what presents. But the essential link leading to other orienting relationships is your relationship with your friend in need.

Once we know the essential “what,” the human good of relationality, and helping to bring folks into a sense belonging, however difficult the process and discovery of the “how,” the specific paths into relationship, we are already stumbling together toward reality and life.

Our concern and efforts continue to be for the most vulnerable among us, physically, and emotionally. Our solution, for the well-being of all of us, is staying connected, serving, being in relationship, being for the other, and within that witness, lifting into community our brothers and sisters who find themselves slipping into depression and despair.

Times of crisis force us to re-examine, re-evaluate, and re-engage. Let us walk there together in confidence and hope, given to us, to discover the new ways and commitments of our future together.
Peace to all of us.

Rev. Marcel Narucki
Director of Multi-Faith Services and Co-Founder
April 2020
marcel@villageexchangecenter.org