Sometimes a song is just what I need to reach inside myself and find what wants to be heard. That happened last week while listening to Sara Thomsen’s new CD, Song Like a Seed. In “108,” she muses about her childhood home (house number: 108), a place filled with the jewels of family memories. As I listened, I thought of my home as a comforting sanctuary. This led me to realize the value of focusing on what I still have, instead of what I do not have, due to the restrictions of Covid-19. (I speak for myself, knowing there are frontline workers and medical personnel in constant danger, small businesses and families facing serious financial problems, and others whose lives are drastically affected.)
When I look at my life now in regard to the pandemic, what I experience seems mere inconvenience, (not being able to go everywhere or have everything I want), plus the uncertainty and concern regarding the future. Shelter, food, safety—I have these necessities. My imagined deprivation fades quickly when I recall what people went through in the time of slavery, concentration camps, genocide and the brutalities of war.
Looking back into history helps me gain perspective. There I find courage among those who faced radical suffering. Their resilience and ability to maintain hope inspires me. I can only imagine what it must have been like for Anne Frank during the Jewish holocaust, the eight of them crammed into a suffocating space, relying totally on protection and food from those who hid them, always just a breath away from being discovered and led to their death.
Time and again I return to Viktor Frankl and how he managed to survive during his horrific ordeal at four different concentration camps. In his memoir, Frankl wrote that it was his attitude that helped him endure. This included five aspects: (1) “Closely guarded images” of loved ones, particularly his young wife, that kept hope alive. (2) Faithfulness to daily prayer (3) The beauty of nature (seeing the setting sun shining through the Bavarian woods, or the light in a distant farmhouse one bitter cold, pre-dawn morning when forced to march for hours without food) (4) “A grim sense of humor” and (5) Gratitude for small things, such as having enough light before bed to delouse himself. (“If we could not do the job properly, we were kept awake half the night.”)
More recently, the film on brave Harriet Tubman silenced my complaints when I watched the reenactment of slaves brutally whipped, forced to adulate their master, long days of hard work, fragile living conditions without medical aid, and no way to communicate with children or spouses who were sold without so much as an opportunity to say goodbye.
How many benefits I have compared to the fate of those historical figures: an ability to communicate with loved ones, a home and daily meals, the assurance of safety, and access to resources of all sorts via the Internet. These were not available in the past to those who lived in dangerous conditions. My freedom may be a bit limited but I have so much for which to be thankful. Wherever and however you are in your own situation, I hope you can find some things for which to give thanks and find hope-filled inspiration.
The above newsletter was republished with permission to Jeanne Wall directly from Joyce Rupp.