In Praise of Love That Delivers

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by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM    May 17, 2020

In these days of quarantine and staying at home, it may feel as if the world as we know it is shrinking. I’m not speaking of the thousands of healthcare workers and first responders who are meeting a tsunami of critical human need each day. I’m speaking of those of us staying at home, with our daily lives in some ways bounded by four walls. We are seeing less and less of people’s faces, covered as they are with a professional mask or a makeshift bandana folded over for protection, only eyes and hair exposed. We may venture out for a daily walk regulated by safe social distancing or a necessary but cautious trip to the supermarket. Is the world as we know it shrinking by the day?

Not at all! I think of COVID-19 as the great amplifier. For me, it has turned the volume up on some questions that have always resided in my heart, but which are now so loud that they can’t be ignored:

What do I fear?
What do I cherish that is greater than my fear?
What do I long for with all my heart?
What fills me with gratitude?
What do I miss most?
What have I discovered I no longer need?

I find my world expanding as I live with a new and grateful awareness of what is sometimes the underbelly of our lives: the support service people. Those who truck our goods, those who stock them, package them, disinfect shelves and registers, those who deliver our mail and our packages. I have been seeing some extraordinarily exhausted service people in my occasional trips outside.

I’m living with a fresh and renewed gratitude for Ray, my mail carrier, who is living the Post Office’s unofficial motto of “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their daily rounds.” Not even COVID-19, it seems.mailbox

With the arrival of the corona virus, I started a new spiritual practice. Every week I leave Ray a note of thanks and a remembrance of prayer in my mailbox, accompanied by a small treat—a box of M & Ms, a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer (when those were easier to come by), some homemade cookies. When I do this, I pray for his and his family’s safety and well-being and my world grows larger as I include the thousands of unnamed and unrecognized public servants who provide food and medicine and care and communication for us day in and day out.

With Ray in mind, I recently discovered a U.S. Post Office inscription different from the “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” version that’s so familiar to many of us. This relatively unknown version is inscribed at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. It was originally called “The Letter” and was written by Dr. Charles W. Eliot, former president of Harvard University. I think it is spot on in describing the heroic work of so many service workers who insure that we can go on living day to day, often at significant personal risk to themselves and their loved ones.

mailglobepackagesPerhaps you’d like to join me in praying Dr. Eliot’s words as a litany of thanks and protection for all those who serve us in so many faithful, hidden ways. I’ve added a response after each of the Smithsonian’s titles for these dedicated service workers:

Messenger of Sympathy and Love… Bless you!
Servant of Parted Friends… Bless you!
Consoler of the Lonely…Bless you!
Bond of the Scattered Family…Bless you!
Enlarger of the Common Life…Bless you!
Carrier of News and Knowledge…Bless you!
Instrument of Trade and Industry…Bless you!
Promoter of Mutual Acquaintance of Peace and of Goodwill Among Men [People] and Nations…Bless you!

For all the ways you bless our lives, may you be blessed, today and always.

Takeaway

Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Call to mind a person who enriches your life through hidden, often unrecognized  service.
Ask the Holy One to safeguard their protection and safety.
When possible, communicate your deep gratitude to that person.
Thank the Holy One for creating them and placing them in your life.

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7 thoughts on “In Praise of Love That Delivers”

  1. Most days I manage to be on time to receive the box of mail from the hands of our carrier, Joe, or his substitute, inquire for their health and their families, thank them in person, insist they use the elevator when the box is obviously heavy, or one of them is limping. I often have offered them a pick-me-up when we have candy out, or made up a little packet for them. But, Sr. Chris, you have now inspired me to do it more often and to watch for non-edible items that may be useful to them.

  2. Sr. Chris, you keep hitting home runs, even though baseball is still on hold! Ray your mail carrier gives, and thanks to you, receives. And like Ray, we are the recipient of so many sweet treats from your blog. For Sr. Chris, the carrier of the Good News: Bless you!

  3. So touched by your tribute to all those support service people helping us get through this. Have also taken to heart your Takeaway advice.

  4. Your blog provides such insight and comfort always. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us. Hugging you!

  5. Dear Chris, I am finally getting to see this. I just left a note on the letter box at our Condo and hope our carrier saw it. We have had changes lately and I am not even sure who brings our mail but am grateful to whomever it may be. Thank you also for the reflection questions. It truly is a rich time to look at our lives and the possibilities for the future…which will never be like the past. “See, I make all things new” seems to be the path forward. Blessings and gratitude, MaryLouise

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