By Ann Helmke
May 9, 2020 page A13

Who are we in the midst of COVID-19?

Sometimes I find myself imagining the God’s eye view of our human movement during these surreal times. The image is daunting and more than the eye of my heart can take in during the most serious of moments.

Every once in a while, a wee bit of lightness of heart will pop in and the image becomes somewhat like ants at a picnic. Some scrambling. Some feasting on bits or biting. Some carrying 10 to 50 times their capacity. Some alone and lost while others run for their lives. Some huddle, focused on completing the task in front of them. Many walking and working together in a united and forward mission to a concerted drum of a destination only known to them.

The image makes me smile. It somehow lightens the load and gives me hope for us human creatures.

The pandemic has brought us all back down to earth and to our knees. The knee-state in a crisis is an observable state of being. Sometimes in the scramble it appears much like begging. The human brain in crisis is charged with chemicals that fog our reason. We may find ourselves regressing, or we may simply be grabbing for everything we can get our hands on. Solutions as well as stuff. For many, even if they rarely prayed, the knee-state looks much like prayer. The knee-state is a humbling and human movement.

Rapid research and first responders, mass consumption and economic impact, declarations and essays, poems and songs are all being created in this moment in time. We are creative creatures and social beings finding ourselves for the first moment in history contained in an incubator of the same global crisis. We find ourselves in a moment we did not plan for and certainly not a moment we would wish to be in.

Who do we want to be? This C-spin caused a global pause and is giving us opportunity to choose a clearer path. Hindsight is said to be 20/20, but we live in 2020 with the human capacity to actually see the larger-than-life view of our interdependent planet. We have the most research on best practices and the human condition than ever before, coupled with the highest levels of technology.

Wouldn’t it be theoretically possible to come out on the other side of COVID-19 better, even perhaps at our best, than we were before? Is that such a far-reaching question to ask of ourselves? To expect of ourselves? We have the potential to blow ourselves up. We must certainly then have the potential to believe in the best of ourselves and each other as well.

Is there a missing element in this equation of potential? Is there a bit of lightness we can see in our current complexities that might shed a glimmer of hope on the globe?

There is a perennial and ancient element that spans across time, found in all the world religions. Some call it the golden rule or the ethic of reciprocity. Some call it love on behalf of all life.

We see it in San Antonio. People helping other people instead of grabbing things or giving up in despair. First responders. Health care and essential city workers.

We see it in San Antonians carrying many more times their weight in caring for others. Food banks and food pantries and senior centers providing tens of thousands of meals.

We see it in San Antonio’s civic leaders and faith leaders huddling together to address and complete the most complex of decisions in front of them. Meeting continually. Updating daily. Making decisions that no one wants to hear, but that everyone needs to hear, for the survival and thriving of our common humanity.

If a drone were flying above all of San Antonio, we might even see many of us working together in a united and forward mission while walking to a concerted drumbeat of a destination not yet clearly known.

Must it be this way? Not yet clearly known? Compassion is a choice and a systemic strategy of intentional actions based on millennia of human experience and research.

The best drumbeat is the one that resonates with the heartbeat.

The Rev. Ann Helmke is the faith-based initiative liaison for the city of San Antonio Department of Human Services.

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