I have heard it said: in a competition between water and rock, the water wins. It may take years, but the water shapes the rock, wearing it slowly down into sand.
In volatile periods, like the one we presently find ourselves, any sensitive soul might ask, “is it really wise to be soft?” Softening makes us more open, more compassionate, more loving, more attentive, but also? More sensitive, more vulnerable, more permeable.
Softness is like closeness. When we are soft, without so much armor, we are closer to the surface of ourselves. We can be reached, touched, shaped, more easily, by love, but also by pain.
I cannot count the number of times I have teared up in the last week. The stories of the impossible choices doctors have had to make between who receives intensive care and who does not. The stories of family members separated without knowing if their quarantined loved ones are infected. The stories of fights at the grocery stores. The stories of fear about not making ends meet and not feeding children, of economic decline, of delayed cancer surgeries. This world, I have thought. It is cruel and harsh and mysterious.
We are all homesick for something, these days, it seems.
But then, being close to the surface of myself, I have also cried taking in the following. The story of a man standing outside his wife’s window in quarantine with balloons and signs to celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary. The story of a group of friends who left a $2,500 tip on a $30 bill at an Ohio restaurant. The countless stories of people buying groceries for their elderly neighbors. And on.
By all accounts, this new normal will not abate for many months, if not over a year. But this is what I will be reminding myself: “Stay soft, Sarah.” What we do matters. How we are matters.
As Mother Teresa said, “We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Be like water. Have the patience to keep offering your loving kindness to the world, with the hope of healing it, shaping it, making it a safer, more compassionate, more humane place for all.