For the first time since mid-March, we welcomed a retreat group to St. Anthony’s this past weekend. Welcoming retreatants is what we do, and yet for the past five months we have been disconnected from that purpose, that mission, that ministry. With all the necessary changes because of COVID, our experience proved a bit bumpier than we had hoped. But despite the bumps, having a group of guests in the house did remind us of our interconnectedness.
This wasp nest I found last fall (way back then when I could still travel) also reminds us of our interconnectedness. It is an amazing web of tiny little hexagonal cells. One tiny cell in isolation is very fragile. The cells gain strength by being connected to one another. What is not obvious from this perspective is that the nest was actually three layers of cells joined together by ligament-like tissues. This nest also reminds us that what we see may not be the entirety of what is.
Our actions and choices impact our guests and our guests’ choices and actions impact us. We are all connected by virtue of our sharing the same space for two days. What is not as apparent is their choices and ours also have the potential to impact many others who were not even here this weekend – the individuals and groups planning to be here in the coming weeks or months, the families of our guests, the families of the staff who were here and other staff members who will interact with the residents and staff who were here.
But our interconnectedness also allows us to empathize with others’ struggles, to support each other on life’s journey, to strengthen and encourage one another. By gathering together in a common setting and sharing our struggles, we can feel less fragile, less alone.
Perhaps the most important lesson we need to learn from this year’s pandemic is that we are all interconnected. Our actions cause ripples, often beyond what we can see. Our choices, our decisions, can affect others even if we are not aware of it. We can choose to make decisions based on our own wants and preferences, or we can choose to respect one another, encourage one another, affirm one another even in difficult times.
For the blessing of community and for our interconnectedness, we say Deo Gratias!