Losses, Graces, and New Beginnings

Connections define us as human beings. Our very sense of self is the product of a cerebral symphony, and our worldview the consequence of the personal interactions that create and sustain our sense of a beloved community.

In this time of Covid isolation, I have been weaned of many of those reinforcing personal connections, and I count that as both the loss and grace of the experience. It is loss for obvious reasons: separation from my choir family, segregation from my church identity, and isolation from the community of friends with whom I am at ease and comfortable. But a temporary withdrawal from routine and comfort is what academics call a sabbatical . . . an opportunity to reassess, to recenter, and to reimagine.

To paraphrase Proust, the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in seeing old landscapes with new eyes. This forced Covid isolation has untethered me from a self-satisfied status quo. It has opened my eyes to how incredibly privileged my life has been and still is. What I have seen as blessings in my life, the deserved outcome of hard work in a land that rewards independence and perseverance, have been in many ways the product of opportunity and benefit denied to others and often on the back of their suffering. The mantra of these days is “Black Lives Matter.” They have always mattered, but my eyes have been focused elsewhere. I see the old landscape now with new eyes, and it will never look the same again.

God’s grace is said to be a freely given beneficence, but it is not always a comfort in my experience. I believe it is sometimes to be found in the voice of introspection that asks: “Is it I, Lord?” Am I a party to subliminal bias that corrupts any hope of loving my neighbor as myself? Seeing ourselves as being a part of what is wrong with the world can free us to transform our lives and walk in more expansive pastures. With you, I want to be a part of a revitalized community when we return. I want us . . . I want me . . . to be a catalyst for change in how our community sees itself. My hope is that we may, ourselves, be a grace note for our city, inspiring an inwardly directed search for privilege bound delusions that deflect our love of neighbor toward maintaining the status quo. We can’t make our community better if we don’t make it different. And the gift of that change is true communion where all are honored, respected, and loved.

Steve Haney, Laurel Heights member, COVID-19 Response team