It is Palm Sunday 2020. Palm Sunday was a day of peace and joy. Jesus enters Jerusalem to a joyous welcome. But he knew that this would not last. There were hard times ahead- a betrayal, a crucifixion. We are in a tough time but for most it will get worse before it gets better. So, Palm Sunday is a good moment to take stock and to rejoice at all that is good in this moment, to renew our faith and to reject acts of desperation prompted by fear.
So, where are we?
Charles Dickens began his famous novel, “A Tale of Two Cities” set during the chaos of the French Revolution with the words, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This also describes where we are.
On the negative side, there has been the hoarding of many items, including somewhat inexplicably, toilet paper. Why toilet paper? Fear drives people to such irrational behavior. It is the emotional virus spurred by the actual virus. People also have run into medical facilities to steal masks. The danger signs can be much worse. There are 200-300 Asians who are verbally assaulted each day in the United States because they are blamed for bringing the virus here. Two or three are also physically assaulted each day. https://people.com/health/coronavirus-racist-attacks-against-asians/. There is evidence of price gouging on critical medical supplies. Dr. Anthony Fauci, our leading medical expert on pandemics and universally revered in the medical community, must be protected by security personnel because of threats to his life. These are acts of despair, the ugly fruit of extreme fear.
So, there are troubling signs around us, but there are even more signs of incredible courage, compassion and hope. These are a few I have witnessed or heard of at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City where I work. They represent in concrete terms how we try to be the healing ministry of Jesus.
#1 A sign company put a sign in front of our hospital declaring, HEROES WORK HERE.
#2 We had 100+ people in our parking lot one night gather and flash their lights and honk their horns in support of our healthcare workers. The nurses on the floors waved back.
#3 The supportive drawings of children were posted near our coworker entrance. They said things like, “Nurses are the Best!” and “Not all Heroes wear capes.”
#4 The NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and FBU (family birth unit) heard that our ICU unit handling Coronavirus patients was having a hard time. The NICU and FBU brought food to the ICU and made posters of heartfelt support. See some of them at the top of this article. This is just one of many examples of our coworkers taking care of other coworkers.
#5 We have also arranged that coworkers can order dinners from our cafeteria for $2 to take home to their families. We also created a relaxation room for coworkers with soothing music, coffee and tea, soft lighting, bibles and prayer cards, and the especially popular Dove chocolates. We have solicited and received increased donations to our coworker assistance fund to help with coworkers who are having trouble making ends meet during this crisis.
#6 In this time of Coronavirus, we and other community groups have developed a process to help locate different humane places for the homeless and those without a home for those who need social separation, those expected of having Coronavirus, those who test positive but asymptomatic, and those who have been treated and released to quarantine. We will provide medical treatment, hygiene, and food to them. Those at the margins are deserving of our care. This is a commitment this is central to our tradition that we inherent from the Sisters of Mercy.
#7 Our clinics have designated three clinics as Covid facilities. When our clinic leaders suggested that they should do two weeks at these clinics and then take two weeks off, the coworkers unanimously refused. They wanted to stay with their patients.
So, I hope you appreciate the incredible courage, compassion, and support that this pandemic has engendered in so many people. In Catholic thought, this unity stemming from the recognition of the inherent God given dignity of all people is termed solidarity. The result of this solidarity is that people are giving to others for the common good.
So as a country we have a choice between fear or hope. The writer Maya Angelou described our choice as follows, “Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Invite one to stay.” This choice is not easy, but we do have a choice. Let us choose wisely.
And during Holy Week, we must remember that our hope ends in Easter, the resurrection. After the sacrifice, all is renewed in the light of grace. So, we work hard every day to get to that point. Let us run the race. We must rise every day committed to doing our best for others. This is a special vocation, a special calling. It is the healing ministry of Jesus.