I don’t know about you, but when I watched the USS Mercy and the USS Comfort docking at ports on the West and East coasts, my breath was captured by the images of help and assistance coming to all of us who need medical care while the Coronavirus invades our country. There were the two hospital ships, gleaming white, with scores of medical staff waiting on the decks in expectation of arriving patients. As I watched the dockings, I thought about the genius of the names:
Mercy and Comfort. Just thinking about mercy and comfort provided calm.
Then I remembered an old retired hospital ship from the 1960s and 1970s – the SS Hope. As far as I know, it was retired because it was too old. Its memory lingers in the minds of those of us old enough to recall it. In honor of those who served on our first hospital ship (originally the USS Consolation), I include the USS Hope here because Mercy, Comfort and Hope is exactly what we need at this moment in America.
Here we all are, in the middle of a pandemic, the likes of which we have never seen before. We are living in a grey time because there is no certainty. We don’t know how long we will be unable to leave our homes and how long the threat outside will linger in our communities. The tragic example of New York and its thousands of people who have been identified as having COVID-19, the infected first responders, those who are experiencing financial trauma, and the petrifying fear of the unknown, cause anxiety and apprehension about this dread disease and how it will affect America. Our once “free” country in which its population could come and go as it pleased, has changed.
Where do we go for Mercy, Comfort and Hope? How, in our “lock down,” do we find what the two active hospital ships are offering – help, rescue, care, healing? How do we find Hope? Have we retired it because we feel so forlorn about our circumstances? I offer a few words about how to provide your own Mercy, Comfort and Hope:
First, let’s define “Mercy.” According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, mercy is the “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” That is what the USS Mercy is doing – relieving distress as those aboard provide help. I think idea of having “mercy” also encompasses, empathy. How many of us feel empathy for ourselves? It is fairly common to feel compassion for others, but we often neglect to feel concern for our own misfortunes and sufferings. How can we have mercy for ourselves? The best way I know of is to relate to yourself with kindness, empathy and understanding. Weave mercy into your daily existence by being kind to yourself in thoughts, words and deeds.
Let’s accept that the entire world is affected by an unknown invader that we must protect against. Accept that there are many scientists working on a solution. Accept that today there are positives in your life such as the phone, computer, radio, television, friends you can call or Facetime. Accept that you are not powerless over how you protect yourself from COVID-19.
It is somewhat easy to focus on the negatives that have been brought to us by the Coronavirus. Just watch the news – there they are – all the negatives are on your screen, 24 hours a day. How about changing our focus to what we can be grateful for? Do you have shelter? Can you go for a walk outside? Are there groceries at your local market? Can you take a bath or shower? Are you able to wash your clothes? Is your vision such that you can read? Does your hearing allow you to listen to music? The gratitude list can go on and on if you are willing to switch your focus from all the negatives.
Stay in the Present
Today is today. It is NOT YESTERDAY. It is NOT TOMORROW. Today, hospitals are being erected to care for the sick. Today, I have friends who care for me. Today, I have a meal I can prepare. Today, I can walk. Today, I can exercise to some cool videos online. There is abundance in my life today.
Are you meditating? There are many Apps that will help you meditate and relax. Are you listening to calming music? Change your TV from the news to one of the many music offerings that come to you via your cable provider. Are you creating fun for yourself? In today’s world, we might have to re-define the concept of “fun.” Experiment with what might be fun. Remember, “A happy life consists in tranquility of mind.” Cicero
What am I Learning
If we look over the span of world history, we discover that out of tragedy comes wisdom. Make a daily note of what you have learned over the last 24 hours. Share it with your friends, relatives and children. Such internal investigation can lead to some extremely interesting conversations that will feed your heart and mind at the same time. While talking to a friend one day, I learned all about her experience as an archeologist! I had the time to listen! I made the time to listen! I turned from myself to something outside of me. I learned. For those of us who feel trapped at home with their active school-age children, they are great teachers. Ask them questions. Be quiet. Listen. Learn.
Do Something for Someone Else
I have been so fortunate to have so many patients and friends share wonderful ideas that they have implemented to make someone else’s life better. I had a nurse tell me that she has a beautiful garden and that she picked flowers wearing rubber gloves, wrapped each flower in tissue paper, put a bow around it and left one for each person working at the nurses’ station in the hospital. You wouldn’t have to be a nurse to deliver flowers. Another person shared that he is a talented photographer. He has created a practice of emailing a photo he took of a bird, his dog, a tree, etc., to his friends every day. He told me they now look forward to his morning emails. Give yourself a purpose. Do something for someone else!
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
Here’s what I initially told myself when my gym closed: “Oh boy, a vacation!” “Oh boy, an excuse to become a broccoli laying on the sofa watching TV.” After a week, I began to feel extremely lethargic. I don’t like that feeling. Out of curiosity, I scanned online exercise videos – Youtube, has an abundance of them. I talked myself into participating in an online workout. I discovered that it was too strenuous after sitting at my desk or laying on the sofa for a week. I couldn’t believe how quickly all my hard-won agility and strength disappeared! I searched until I found a few workouts that were just right for me! Chair Yoga was fabulous! Weight training with three-pound weights was perfect. Working out with bands, floated my boat! I incorporated “at home” exercise into my life! Honestly, I feel vibrant. In place of the treadmill or the elliptical machine, I walk. I get outside in the evening and relish being in the cool air.
The Coronavirus, while very scary and threatening, gives us an opportunity to heal relationships, play board games, sit outside and admire the foliage, pet your guinea pig, plant Spring flowers and do anything else you can imagine that might benefit your needs for peace in these turbulent times. As a population, many Americans have become deficient at entertaining themselves. Try something new! Explore what’s around you.
As I reflect on the now retired SS Hope, I think of it as a foundational great example of how we can help ourselves get through trying times. It was a vessel that gave, “hope.” Where is your hope? When I think about the Mercy and Comfort floating Navy Hospitals that are currently receiving patients with medical needs other than those demanded by Coronavirus, I give thanks for all the people on board those ships, I give thanks for each and every first responder (of which I am one) and I give thanks that I have faith that this pandemic will eventually be put to rest. What about you? Are you providing Mercy and Comfort to yourself and others?
These are only a few ideas about how to get through and past our fears and anxiety. There are many paths to Mercy, Comfort and Hope. Create yours.
To quote Khalil Gibran, “Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.”