What do you need?
One of my favorite mail-order catalogs arrived the other day with the heading, “Our Most Essential Styles for Right Now.” Hmmm. Isn’t essential the word used for the reasons we are leaving our homes right now? Essential trips to essential businesses for essential goods to fulfill our essential needs.
In other seasons I have sat down with the catalog and decided some of those styles were absolutely essential. However, with the coronavirus pandemic my perspective is more practical. I understand why marketing people would use the words essential and right now. They need the sales. Many businesses are going under. Unfortunately for the catalog business, my old turtle necks and stretchy yoga pants are serving me well right now as I sit at home or take my dachshund, Gabe, for walks in the neighborhood.
Still, the catalog got me thinking. What is most essential? Webster defines essential as an absolutely necessary, extremely important need. So I sat with this question, “What do I need?” The time gave me pause for gratitude.
I am grateful to have a roof over my head, food and clean water. Being quiet a little longer, I dove a little deeper to ask myself what truly gives me purpose, keeps me going? What is the essence of who I am? The answer came quickly.
At my very core I need to love and feel loved. My favorite quote of all time comes from a fable written by Antoine de Saint Exupery, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” I got out my old copy of “The Little Prince” and re-read it. The most valuable things in life can not be seen with the eye: love, friendship, compassion, commitment, trust, integrity and hope.
I am grateful to feel safe, regardless of the daily updates of a disease that is spreading silently all over the world. Each day I cycle through feelings of guru-like awareness that all is well, worry about how many coffee filters I have left and have anxiety that crescendos toward the future when many may be afflicted and possibly die right here in our community.
I don’t think I am alone in the exhaustion of navigating this daily emotional landscape. Focusing on what I am grateful for is helpful in managing each day. I find I am more tired and need naps. Taking a break from the news and walking for 30 to 40 minutes twice a day also helps with the stress. The fresh air helps me focus on daffodils and buds on the trees and the sounds of woodpeckers and birds.
Observing social distance, neighbors offer greetings and conversations from their yards that helps me feel connected. I have written personal notes and sent cards to friends. Thank goodness the mail and packages are being delivered. I have Zoomed with family and friends, and watched my local church service on FaceBook live streamed.
I believe connecting with people in this time of separation is crucial. Creative acts of gentleness and kindness that reach others on an emotional level and let them know they are not alone are essential. Many of our elderly and most vulnerable, such as those who are homeless, do not have options of technology. Hence, teddy bears in our windows, signs and notes of love and care on doorsteps, and donations of all types sent out to our most needy are critical.
We all need to know we have value beyond just staying home and not infecting each other. It is too easy to feel helpless. We are all grieving life as we have known it, and we are anxious about something we have never experienced before. The challenge is to find and maintain personal stability when things appear so terrifying.
Saying a prayer, making a phone call, dropping off a blanket or writing a check all contribute to the essential, yet invisible counter required by this pandemic. Just as I was finishing this article, I got a call from a friend. She said, “Patricia, I thought of you and decided to call. I am sending you a photo of my daffodils. I think daffodils are God’s way of saying, ‘I’m here. Spring is here. Hope is here today.’” I needed that.
Rev. Patricia A. Stout is a retired Presbyterian minister and a substitute teacher in the Delaware City Schools.