I was in my small pharmacy the other day, Maria waiting on me, as she so often does. She asked me how I was doing, and I told her that I was having difficulty with the grief “long haul,” in this second year after my dear husband’s death. I’m sad, seriously lacking my usual energy. She said she was sorry, and looked concerned.
We transacted our business, and I turned to go. She said, “Wait a minute,” and bustled out from behind the counter. She said, “You need a hug,” and we shared a comforting hug. She stepped back, looked me compassionately in the eye and said: “God loves you. God loves you.”
I was touched. I was comforted. Maria is a Catholic and I am a Unitarian Universalist, so our ideas of God may (or may not) differ, but it didn’t matter. My grief and depression did not go away, but my heart moved toward healing, and I was so very grateful. Her gift was a deeply spiritual one.
So I started thinking about loving connection. One person’s grief is a very small part of the extreme stress our whole world is going through. In addition to all the losses humans have always had to bear, we have war, pestilence, isolation, financial worry and the possible annihilation of our entire planet. It seems so hard to make any kind of difference, so easy to succumb to despair.
I obviously don’t have all the answers, since I am right now not in there swinging, making huge contributions in some way. I am struggling to be a functioning human being some of the time. But reflecting on Maria’s spiritual generosity, I see that every one of us can offer a friendly hand to one another, at least occasionally. We can offer a smile, an appropriate touch, an understanding look, a small piece of caring conversation. It can make a real difference.
I know, I’m bordering on the Pollyanna approach, the dorky everything-will-be-fine-if-we-just-smile-smile-smile school of thought. But that’s not what I mean. Of course, we need to write our Congress members, go to rallies, exercise as much larger influence as we possibly can.
And Maria did not solve all my troubles — I need my prayer life, my doctor, my therapist, my deeply loving Dream Group, my daily video conversations with my family, my faith. At the same time, Maria significantly lightened my day, significantly eased my heart, for that afternoon. I’ll take it.
Universal love sometimes shows up in the fireworks or deep calm of the mystical. Way more often, it shows up in fellow human beings, some of whom might even think it downright odd that we think them a messenger of Spirit. Staying in any kind of touch with God’s love — however we might envision that — is pretty hard these days. But we can contribute to the higher good, perhaps be messengers of that good, by giving and receiving compassionate connection with others.
The Rev. Elizabeth Greene is minister emerita of the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.