Rev. Linda Martella-Whitsett
Where is everyone? Communities, like churches and civic organizations and non-profit groups are asking. Participation is down, they say. People are staying home, not getting involved. I can relate. It seems to be my experience as I attend the Unity of San Antonio’s events and service opportunities this summer. I wondered out loud about this, with a dear colleague and friend. Here’s what we concluded: “everyone” is hiding.
Why would we be hiding? I believe it’s because we are grieving. We are impacted by the heaviness of collective grief in the wake of relentless public acts of violence in recent weeks. Grief is hard to recognize, sometimes. It’s especially hard to admit when we don’t feel we have any personal reason to grieve. Our family is safe. Our neighborhood is intact.
Nevertheless, we feel sluggish, unfocused, or depressed. We wonder, what’s the matter with me? Why can’t I get it together? We think it’s personal, something unique to us. And we withdraw.
Withdrawal is understandable in grief. Grieving people hide. We isolate. We seek the comfort and control of our own company, in our own home. When our grief is connected to an atmosphere of rage and violence, we feel afraid which leads us to withdraw trust. We become suspicious-minded.
An example of this comes from my recent vacation among my large extended family in Philadelphia. My daughter and I arrived several days ahead of my husband Giles. The night before Giles was to arrive, my parents heard on the local news that Southwest Airlines was canceling flights due to a system-wide technology glitch. I texted Giles asking him to double-check his flight status for early the next morning.
Giles’ flight got off on time, but when I mentioned the Southwest Airlines tech problem to a family member, she asked me — in a whisper — “Do you think somebody did it on purpose?” I replied, “You mean that someone might have sabotaged the system?” Yes, that was her thought. You’d have to know this beloved person to understand that her suspicious-minded thought was uncustomary. It surprised me. She was thinking “terrorism,” and why should she not, considering the saturation of this idea in the invisible thought field around us.
Again, when I and my family had completed the first leg of our return flight, expecting to remain on the plane through to San Antonio, we were ushered off the plane, with our belongings, along with the other 25 through passengers. The pilot seemed tense and told us it was urgent that we deplane quickly. Someone posed the questions probably on the minds of many passengers: A bomb? Terrorism? Turns out, one of the brakes was smoking, and the pilot had been fearful of a fire. We safely reentered the terminal and were assigned another plane promptly.
I’ll tell you what! (This is a phrase I was told by my daughter that I frequently say, so I’ll say it now!) I’ll tell you what! Grief and its effects come from feelings of powerlessness. But we are NOT powerless. We do not have to withdraw. We do not have to disappear. We do not have to fear helplessness. We can claim our rightful spiritual power. With spiritual power, our first thought is not “terrorist.” Our first thought is: What can I do? What can I do to lift up this person, this situation? Spiritual power has us up and out, not cowering in the pseudo-safety of familiarity. Spiritual power has us show up, speak up, act up.
Our first lady Michelle Obama spoke of it earlier this week. When her girls hear some of the terrible, untrue commentary about their parents, the President and Mrs. Obama tell their girls: “When they go low, we go high.” We can all use a dose of this character-building medicine. When we are unconsciously influenced by the collective consciousness of fear, we can “go high” by attuning to our spiritual power, our rightful capacity of concentration (on Truth), self-mastery, and spiritual authority.
Let’s do this, friends. Let’s go high.