“My work is loving the world.” Mary Oliver
The other day, a group of us began naming ways in which we see people doing the work of loving the world during the COVID-19 crisis. We see medical personnel doing the work of loving the world through their ministrations to the sick, and scientists doing it through their research. Teachers doing the work of loving the world by adapting their lesson plans and meeting their classes in cyberspace, or driving through neighborhoods holding up signs of greeting and encouragement. Parents doing the work of loving the world by keeping things as normal as possible for their children—and trying to help them with calculus in between their own Zoom meetings. We see children doing the work of loving the world through their resilience. Truckers and cashiers and grocery shelf stockers and sanitation workers doing the work by continuing to move goods and keep buildings clean. Police, firefighters, news reporters, and transit workers loving the world by going about the various tasks they are called to do. We see musicians, comedians, actors, and other artists doing the work of loving the world by freely sharing their gifts through Face Book or You Tube; and organizations such as local family YMCAs by offering free chair yoga or meditation classes. We see churches, synagogues, mosques, and various volunteer organizations loving the world by continuing to find ways to feed the hungry and care for the homeless in their communities. We see neighborhoods in which ordinary people are doing the work of loving the world by singing or making music from their balconies every evening, or by ringing bells or, as we have done in my neighborhood, by placing an electric candle to shine from a window as a sign of our thanks to those who keep all of us going.
In my own circle of friends, some of us are doing the work of loving the world by grieving the loss of a loved one, and some of us are doing it by standing alongside the bereft and broken-hearted. Some of us are doing the work of loving the world by acknowledging that we are afraid or discouraged, by confessing that we are suffering spiritually or emotionally, by admitting that we are angry or resentful; and some of us are doing the work of loving the world by listening, counseling, forgiving, offering hope. Some of us are doing the work of loving the world by lying awake at night worried about our finances, or fretting for the future of the world’s children. Some of us are doing it by fighting for justice, and some of us are doing it by simply trying to stay out of the way. Some of us are doing the work of loving the world by making masks or by exploring new avenues of creativity or by practicing patience with ourselves and those we live with. Some of us are doing the work of loving the world by deepening our practices of gratitude, of almsgiving, of prayer.
Sometimes the work of loving the world is beautiful and easy. We look out and see a blue sky or a bright bird. We hold a newborn infant. We hear music that sends our spirits soaring. We turn on the water and take a hot shower. We eat a delicious meal or get a good night’s sleep. “Ahhh,” we say. “Life is good. God is good. Thank you.”
Sometimes the work of loving the world is messy, hard. Often it involves bearing witness to the world’s pain and suffering. But life is still good, and God is still good, and the work of loving the world that you are doing, no matter how tedious or routine or inconsequential it seems—that work is also good. Thank you for whatever it is you are doing. Thank you for your work of loving the world.