Michael Pappas Shares Pandemic Reflection

19 May 2020

Michael Pappas, of the San Francisco Interfaith Council (a URI member group based in San Francisco, CA, USA), writes this thoughtful reflection during the COVID-19 pandemic. See the original Facebook post here.

Faith is perhaps the most deeply personal dimension of our complex being. I don't often talk about my faith. I like to hope that it subtly expresses itself in my interpersonal relationships and through my work. Like many of you, my life has been punctuated by challenging crises. In those deepest and most traumatic of moments, when life was seemingly beyond my control, my faith empowered me to persevere and discern the wisdom that is born out of pain.

Before the pandemic, individuals endured crises on their own. The resilience of the human spirit, which I believe is empowered by something greater than us, enables human beings to emerge from crises with a greater understanding of self and those around us. It is in the midst of a crisis that we define ourselves. In our individual crises, our real friends also define themselves.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has thrust us into a crisis of a dramatically different sort. Although there are sectors more vulnerable to contracting the virus, its rampant and dramatic spread reminds us that it does not discriminate. Royalty and the privileged, as well as the homeless and the aged, are both susceptible to its contagion.

For the first time in nearly six decades of life, I am witnessing a global family forced to share in suffering, isolation, fear, anxiety and sacrifice. Each of us is a child in our global family. Inasmuch as each of us is responding in our own unique way, this pandemic, as no other crisis in memory, has forced us to realize that our very existence is dependent upon one another.

Since our City declared a state of emergency in late February, I've often felt overwhelmed and, at the same time, like I've been running on adrenaline. And yet, hearkening back to the memory of past crises, at those very moments when utter chaos feels as if it is beyond control, moments of grace emerge, when my life is buoyed by the injection of comfort, strength and discernment. Call it what you may, I know that it is a power greater than me; In my case, a strange faith that does not express itself in formal or even extemporaneous prayer, but rather, it's as if that greater power, whom I call God, knows what is needed at those critical moments without me needing to ask. Out of a love that defies logic, these gifts are God's response.

I realize that this journey will be a long one. If we have not already, we will know loved ones, family, friends and acquaintances who have tested positive, and some who will have mortally succumbed. Others we know and love will also be the victims of unemployment and economic devastation. Many, if not most, will suffer psychologically and emotionally from the conditioned isolation imposed in order to stem the tide of broader outbreaks and spread of the virus. We also know that those who do emerge will be changed and different people. We will not return to the life we knew. How we use our time in quarantine will determine the sort of people we will become once public health shelter-in-place orders are lifted.

This time in the wilderness just might be that long overdue and sorely needed occasion to reconnect with that greater power and source of sustenance critical to enabling us as individuals and children of the global family to face what we will be called endure and emerge more whole and connected human beings than we knew ourselves, before.