Spending so much time in social distancing and staying home certainly have given me plenty of time and space to reflect on Sister Joan Chittister and Toni Morrison’s insights about who I am at this juncture in my life. The pandemic and the murder of George Floyd have called me to take a good look at myself and see where I need to continue on the lifelong paths of reconciliation and conversion. Just how does all this impact me at this time in my life?
Covid 19 caught us off guard and the response of our governors and their teams certainly put us on a lockdown of sorts and forced us to think and act in creative and sometimes panicky ways. I’m not sure what the hoarding was all about (especially the toilet paper!), but I was reminded of similar behavior happening before hurricanes and snow storms. It has always made me realize how fragile we are and how interdependent we are on others and things when perhaps we should be more concerned about what really matters in such emergencies. I think many people finally did realize that family, home, food on the table, faith in God, and hope for the future are the important values even when some of these values were sorely tested. I will never forget the bravery of the caregivers in health care, the sheer numbers of those who died, and the terrible loneliness of our elders and others as they were quarantined from family, friends, and volunteers.
The death of George Floyd, the murder by a police officer of yet another black man in my hometown of Minneapolis, upset me to the core. How could this happen in a city that has been working on becoming an international welcoming community? The Minneapolis I grew up in 70 plus years ago was being integrated with European settlers who were learning to get along in a new world. There were ethnic churches on every corner in northeast Minneapolis, and as a child I wondered why we had so many Catholic churches if we were all Catholics. There were no black children in my church, school, or neighborhood. I hardly ever saw anyone who looked different from me.
As I matured and worked with children and adults from different cultures as a teacher, administrator, gerontologist, department chairperson, community leader, and currently as patient liaison to the elders in an inner city medical center, I’ve had the privilege to listen to, interact with, and share ideas with people from many different backgrounds and cultures and feel richer for the experience. Each of these wonderful human beings, with whom I have found so much common ground, has helped to make me who I am today. I look forward to their helping me become the best me I can be as we continue this lifelong journey of reconciliation and conversion together.
I end with a prayer for our times by Dag Hammerskjold:
You who are over us,
You who are one of us,
You who are also within us,
May all see you—in me also.
May I prepare the way for you.
May I thank you for all that shall fall to
May I also not forget the needs of others,
Give me a pure heart—that I may see you,
A humble heart—that I may hear you,
A heart of love—that I may serve you,
A heart of faith—that I may abide in you.
Sister Mary Thill is a Sylvania Franciscan Sister. She is Patient Liaison for Mature Health Connections at Mercy Health – St. Vincent Medical Center. She can be reached at 419-251-3600.