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Like many, these past of couple of months have been full of ups and downs.  There have been days of chaos, fear and anxiety coupled with days of purpose, connection and “victory.”  Many a times these have lived together simultaneously.  As I mentioned in the previous posts, much of the challenge is in recognizing what we have done, what we wish we could have done and what we failed to do, knowing that not completing the task does not have to be a failure.  Nobody can accomplish everything.  In writing these words I am reminded of the following from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) 2:16:

He [Rabbi Tarfon] used to say: It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it;

We must find a way for self-acceptance and self-forgiveness in recognizing our limits.

These thoughts come to mind in my rereading a reflection piece entitled “Lessons from Ministry in the Midst of a Disaster” by Rev. Matt Crebbin. In this piece, Rev. Crebbin describes 5 lessons he learned from his work as a minister after the school shooting in Sandy Hook Connecticut.  The five lessons are with my summaries:

  1. You Are Going to Be a Hero – Don’t get used to it:  There will be moments you will be seen as a hero and moment you won’t.  Be able to accept both equally.
  2. You are going to have a hard time taking care of yourself – It is easy to forget the value of self-care. “Do not surrender to the temptation of believing that God needs your own personal destruction to save the world. It’s not only bad personal self-care, it is bad public theology.”
  3. You’ll need to Focus More on Purpose Than Meaning – The value in the moment is to help create purpose.  The theology, the meaning of why something is happening is something to grapple with after the fact, not in the midst of the chaos.
  4. You’ll need to Use the Body to Calm the Mind – Find physical ways of creating and maintaining calm in yourself and others.
  5. You’ll Need to be a Storyteller – Create the space for people to reflect on their stories and help formulate how the story looks.

During this time of grappling with the short term and long term ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to maintain perspective.  These five lessons are a very good tool to contemplate in grounding chaplains /spiritual care providers as we push and push each and every day.