I stood on the deck
and as I looked out
an oak branch
crashed to the ground.
My view did not change
much with the dropping
of that one old branch.
But to the bird
whose nest it held
This happens to me sometimes: A thought immediately forms out of nowhere and becomes something meaningful, something I’m compelled to write down before it flits away. These happenings are Spirit-spoken inspirations, I believe. And this poem felt like true inspiration.
We’re living in anxiety-ridden times, cloistered in our homes and yards, alone or with family, awaiting the tsunami of disease. Pestilence—a word I actually looked up last week to see if it applied (it does)—swirls in the air around us and lingers on doorknobs and countertops and light switches. We wash our hands of it. Disinfect. Wait.
Reporters and experts and cable news talking heads show us numbers and charts and graphs and statistics and probabilities and percentages until our brains are numb. We simply cannot fathom the destruction this viral wave might bring.
I turn again to my first-edition copy of Anne Morrow Lindburgh’s classic, A Gift From the Sea, a treasure I found when packing up my parents' library while helping them downsize. The book was written in the mid-1950s, but feels especially timely in the 21st century. This particular passage continues to speak to me:
We are asked today to feel compassionately for everyone in the world; to digest intellectually all the information spread out in public print; and to implement in action every ethical impulse aroused by our hearts and minds. The interrelatedness of the world links us constantly with more people than our hearts can hold. Or rather—for I believe the heart is infinite—modern communication loads us with more problems than the human frame can carry.
In these anxious times, in these times when an invisible threat strains our ability to comprehend and drains our emotional energy, I believe we are called to look past the numbers and stats to see the humanity of our (singular) neighbor. As Lindburgh writes, our minds cannot hold all our concerns for humanity; our human frames cannot carry all the problems with which modern communication loads us. So we let our hearts carry what they can. We reach out to one or two. We sit in the silence of an enforced sabbath. We grieve the broken branch, the lost nest, the homeless bird. For the Spirit is an invisible force as well. And the Spirit is near.
Paula J. Hampton
Paula J. Hampton has devoted many years to supporting Christian education as an editor of books, Bible studies, and devotionals for Barclay Press, and is now working as a freelance editor through Ankeny Editing. She practices self-care through quilting, reading, and baking. Paula serves on the board of Eden Spiritual Care.