Church Mouse

Reminding myself to be grateful, I made a point of paying homage to outdoor cathedrals of flowering trees. Photo by Kate Josephson

An inspirational author shared how she wakes everyday as a sad and anxious mess, yet faithfully finds her way back to reasonable serenity — time and time again — by practicing proven techniques she developed for herself. 

Early in the pandemic she had been discerning whether to offer her New York City apartment to a frontline nurse caring for coronavirus patients, or if that would put her neighbors at risk. More glasses of water, walks, naps, and journaling were required before she could decide. Beyond that, she was very content with her comfortable isolation back on April 5, 2020.

I wanted to go back to that interview because I recalled her making a distinction between empathy and compassion — much like a frontline nurse had in a different conversation I recently heard for the first time, linked into an email just a few days ago.

Both women explained how empathy can be disabling. By taking on another’s pain and suffering you now have two people who are suffering. But compassion can allow you to witness another’s distress and still be of service.

They both also mentioned magic. A little tweak at the right moment can bring peace — a literal ray of sunshine.

The nurse who felt called back to the frontline described how her father’s hospice nurse could almost read his mind enabling her to impressively fine-tune the care of her patient.

The author with the empty apartment pointed out that people are really good at forgetting their gratitude.

Something the returning nurse was grateful for and hadn’t forgotten about was a shared compassion practiced by various religions at the hospital where she worked. She facilitated a meeting where clergy from various faiths offered to help each other out. If someone couldn’t be at a patient’s bedside, another masked and gowned person of faith would physically step in, sit down, hold a hand and FaceTime the appropriate priest or pastor, rabbi or imam.

A few days ago I read a short story from the first book written by the now older and wiser author.

It had nothing to do with the creativity of spiritual enlightenment. Or did it … 

It was about cowboys and a strong young woman. A reckless joyride on horseback in the dark of night over rough terrain had both riders in a heap on the ground, shaken but unhurt. The mighty steed of dubious temperament came back and lowered its head to snuffle about and offer its encouragement.

Stepping back into the last church I’d set foot in before the pandemic shutdown to enjoy a concert by visiting vocalists reminded me of just how far we’ve come — community spread of an entirely different nature, with clever banter, complex harmony and exuberant animation to share.

Kate Josephson worked as a church secretary in Red Wing. She seeks out religious experiences where she goes. 

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