Each week I receive an email entitled “The Pause,” from the “On Being Project.” Written by Krista Tippett, it usually contains a short personal column and a podcast interview with a writer or poet. Last week, following the riot in our nation’s capital, her column reflected on the deep divisions in our country.
While struggling to write her column, Tippett received an email from a friend, Whitney Kimball Coe. Coe works for the Center for Rural Strategies in Eastern Tennessee. In her email she shared this personal story:
“I’m at home nursing my youngest, Susannah, who had a scary fall on Monday night and is now recuperating from surgery. She’s going to be fine, but my goodness, 2021 came in hard.”
Coe continued, “Our hospital experience was a stream of consciousness moment. It put us directly in the path of so many wonderful East Tennesseans. Nurses and technicians and doctors, the other parents waiting in the ER, the parking attendant, the security guard. I’m sure many of them didn’t vote as I did in the last election and probably believe the events of Jan 6 were mere protests, but they responded to our trauma with their full humanity.”
“I’d forgotten,” Coe confessed, “what it feels like to really see people beyond their tribe or ideology. It broke something open in me. I’ve been living in a castle of isolation these many months and it’s rotted and blotted my insides. I’m aware of contempt, anger, and maybe even paranoia coursing through my veins, and I wonder if that’s just a snippet of where we are as a nation. Why is our righteous indignation and disgust so much easier to ignite than our compassion?”
Coe concluded: “It makes me realize that there is no substitute for coming into the presence of one another. No meme nor Twitter post nor op-ed nor breaking news nor TED Talk can soften and strengthen our hearts like actually tending to one another. We don’t have to ignore or excuse the darkness we all carry, but we have to keep showing up so we don’t lose ourselves to bitterness.”
I suspect many of us may be living in that “castle of isolation” in one way or another.
Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan is the story of one human being compassionately tending to the needs of another human being without regard for tribe or ideology.
Could it be that tending to one another’s needs with empathy and compassion — one human being to another — might help to heal our divisions and calm our fears? Ironically, this deadly pandemic that we deal with everyday offers a wonderful opportunity to practice tending to each other.
Lord, help us to tend to each other’s needs as you tend to ours. Amen.
John Paul Carter is a resident of East Parker County and a regular contributor to the Weatherford Democrat.