During this frightening, insecure, and momentous time in our history, most of us either find ourselves isolated or living with close family members 24/7.
In that way, the pandemic has taken us back to the core of what makes us a human family – our own personal families. It has given some of us a time to slow down and start at the beginning to examine the relationships we have with our families and ourselves. So how are we treating our loved ones, and if we are solitary, ourselves?
Tragically, during the last weeks a surge in violence against women and children has occurred. Those trapped in violent or hegemonic relationships feel it the most. Already abusive partners experiencing fear and anxiety are taking it out on those who are most vulnerable. The United Nations has warned that the global lockdowns have resulted in a “horrifying surge” in domestic violence. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said, “Peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for #COVID19 face violence where they should be safest: in their own homes. Today I appeal for peace in homes around the world.”
On the other hand, many families are spending their time trying to be of service in any way they can.
Recognizing that this is a perfect opportunity to begin the process of healing the world spiritually and physically, they’re centering their efforts on the unity and betterment of humankind. These families and individuals are finding ways to connect with their communities, including devotionals and prayer gatherings over conference calls and interactive web-based video conferencing.
I felt fortunate to be able to attend an Interfaith Prayer Meeting over Zoom recently, with 170 people in attendance. Organized by Dr. Sara Barton, Chaplain of Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and her husband, Dr. John Barton, Director of the Center for Faith and Learning, and Professor of World Religions at Pepperdine, the gathering gave me an uplifting and unifying experience. Distinguished delegates from five major global Faiths spoke briefly, and then offered one or two prayers each.
I found myself in tears as I felt the healing power of these heartfelt supplications going out into the universe. Rainn Wilson represented the Baha’i Faith and of course, had us all smiling. After he talked about the anxiety that we all feel now, he offered this Baha’i prayer:
O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand. Thou art my Guide and my Refuge. I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life. O God! Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself. I dedicate myself to Thee, O Lord. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Prayers
The accomplished journalist Lisa Ling later joined the panel and imparted to us one of the appalling consequences resulting from the recent outbreaks of racism against the Chinese. She shared that even though she is Japanese, that she is still a target – and in fact recently received online death threats toward her children. Her voice choked and she held back tears as she described what happened, and then expressed how grateful she was to be part of the prayer gathering.
At the virtual assembly, each religion expressed the same basic message – humanity is one and we must all work together in unity to heal our planet. Everyone left the inspired gathering with an elevated heart and renewed hope for a new beginning and future for humanity. The virtual meeting helped me realize that now is the perfect time to start at home and show extra kindness and consideration to our loved ones. This should be our first focus, because if we are not cooperating in loving ways with our own families, how can we hope to collaborate with the world?
To this end, our family discussed the challenges ahead. When we decided to go into quarantine 3 weeks ago, we sat down and considered ways to ensure a joyful, loving, and peaceful atmosphere in our home. We have since tried to be especially sensitive to each others’ needs and have adopted stronger expressions of courtesy. If any hint of dissension occurs we stop it immediately with communication, patience, and kindness. With more time available together, we have connected with each other in discussion, play, and prayer. We can still take walks, fortunately, and we give this activity a priority. We always get together at the end of the day for dinner, and one of us plans something fun to do that evening. This is something I always look forward to, and I have found that now, more than ever, I am so grateful for my family, as so many of us are:
My home is the home of peace. My home is the home of joy and delight. My home is the home of laughter and exultation. Whosoever enters through the portals of this home, must go out with gladsome heart. This is the home of light; whosoever enters here must become illumined. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 5, p. 40.
So how do we treat ourselves if we have to quarantine alone? Now it is a great time to be your own best friend. My son, who lives alone, plans activates each day to keep his mind and creative talents thriving. Posts of his latest work of art, a poem, or a colorful meal he cooked come up almost daily. He exercises and connects regularly with his circle of friends and I often hear laughter from my daughter’s room when they talk or play games over the phone.
For those alone with anxiety or depression, there are virtual resources available and online therapists who can help. Some health plans offer counseling over the phone. You matter, and even though you might feel alone, we are all intricately connected, especially now. Be extra kind and patient with yourself and don’t be afraid to reach out, since so many people are in the same position.How we treat ourselves and others at this crucial time will lay the foundation of the world we will be re-emerging into again soon. This period of testing will demonstrate our true characters. My daughter reminded me of the analogy of an orange. When you squeeze it, you get what’s inside – orange juice! So what comes out of us when we are squeezed during this critical time? Is it anger, bitterness, violence and fear, or is it kindness, patience, and courtesy? With a spiritual outlook, it can be the most powerful expression of all – to love the one you’re with!