A Short Meditation on Vulnerability, on the First Anniversary of Pandemic

A year ago today the World Health Organization proclaimed the pandemic. Perhaps March 11 will become like September 11, a date that will go down in infamy. I write this as I await President Biden’s speech, to occur in a half hour. I do not envy him. I am disheartened to hear how bad things are at our southern border, with so many unaccompanied minors from across Latin America showing up, hoping for that more compassionate response than the previous administration. The kids are still being held for too long in too terrible of conditions – it’s unsanitary and freezing, there are no beds. How vulnerable and miserable these teens must feel. Solutions cannot be found quickly enough. Biden is also vulnerable in this situation.

The pandemic has made us all feel vulnerable and miserable at times. Solutions to our problems can’t come quickly enough, either. While vulnerability seems like a sorry state, I take comfort in the writings by Brene Brown about shame and vulnerability. To be vulnerable takes courage. Our tough-it-up American values cause most of us to shun that uncomfortable zone, avoid it as much as we can. Maybe no one wants to be vulnerable, but to deny the state tends to keep solutions out of reach. It’s in our vulnerability that solutions can be found – when we ask for help, when we admit we don’t entirely understand a situation, or see helpful insight on our own. We have to tell others about our experiences, our fears, our hopes. By opening ourselves up to the unknown, we often find new understanding and clarity we wouldn’t otherwise by bearing problems alone, allowing them to fester.

I am haunted by that saying – who said it? – that “most of us live lives of quiet desperation.” Aha, yes, our dear fellow Henry David Thoreau said that. He would know, he spent a lot of time alone. But we can feel this way even when we are surrounded by loved ones, if we feel too alone in our struggles.

When we lean into our vulnerability, we also flex our compassion muscles. Becoming intimate with our own suffering enables us to feel the pain others go through. Vulnerability can drive compassion and compassionate solutions. This Sunday in worship, we will continue to explore this universal emotion all human beings experience. How can it make us stronger? More resilient? A better leader? A better family member?

My prayers are with you, Mr. President, as you conduct your leadership with as much compassion and wisdom as possible. I thank you for standing up for the most vulnerable among us.

See you Sunday,

Rev. Hannah