The Weight of Safe Harbor

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM      March 13, 2022

What is the value of safe harbor unless we share it? That’s what I was wondering as I worked in my apartment office. This space also functions as a sun room, its five spacious windows flooded by sunshine from dawn to dusk. But the real magic unfolds in the afternoon. When the sun shifts and blankets with warmth my plant neighbors who share this room, I can almost see photosynthesis springing into action. I can almost hear sighs of comfort and thanks breathed by this sentient tribe of cyclamen, violets, succulents, pothos, infant basil, and narcissus bulbs. A riot of purple, fuschsia, and deep red blossoms tilt their heads in response to the sun’s kiss. A profusion of green and emerald leaves signals contentment.

What is the value of safe harbor unless we share it? That’s the question I’ve been carrying around since the first excruciating images of human anguish and Earth’s devastation were beamed into my living room from suffering Ukraine. That’s the question that haunted me when I went into Lowe’s a few days later. There, in a center aisle, stood a rack littered with half dead, dried out, post-Christmas plants, 90% off. Many were beyond saving. Some clutched a green leaf or two. I did what I could, rescued a crippled amaryllis and a few shriveled aloe vera, carried them tenderly home, performed triage on their wounds, and welcomed them into my tribe.

All the while, I was mindful of train stations jammed with fathers hugging their families good-bye; mothers wiping tears from exhausted faces; toddlers clutching stuffed animals alongside buildings bombed into ruin. I was mindful of the safe harbor in which I live, and wondering what more I could do besides offer safety and shelter to a few neglected and abandoned plants. True, every act of human kindness, no matter how seemingly small, extends the field of loving presence out into the Universe. But with the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, I’m feeling so deeply my inability to save others. It seems that Elie Wiesel, himself a survivor of another atrocity, the Holocaust, understands that inability when he writes, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Chris Koellhoffer, my rescued Amaryllis – See what love can do

Now is the time to protest, to choose the way of peace and the works of justice. To do what we can, committing acts of defiant hope in the face of monstrous cruelty. To accompany the Holy One as the Holy One suffers in the crucified people of Ukraine. To pause throughout the day, breathing the energies of compassion, creating a protective shield around the mass of terrified, weary, but courageous refugees making their way out of their beloved homeland. To donate to collections of funds for food and supplies. To arm ourselves with letters and phone calls to protest every egregious violation of human rights. To further the inspiration of the global community as it opens wide in welcome both borders and hugs for refugees. To engage in radical acts of beauty and of hope. To come together to light a virtual candle for peace, setting an intention, sharing a dedication, collectively illuminating the darkness.

Max Kukurudziak, Unsplash

It’s true, Elie Wiesel tells us, that sometimes we may be powerless to prevent injustice. But always, he insists, we must not fail to protest. I wonder, what form might my protest, your protest, take today? What safe harbor will we share from our corner of the world?


Sit in stillness with the Holy One. Open your heart to the suffering people of our world. Listen to what they are asking of you. When you have finished listening, open your arms in a gesture of welcome, and bow in reverence.

Featured image:  Di Maitland, Unsplash


Please hold in your prayer my congregation, the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Scranton), as we come together March 22-27 for our Chapter (a governance gathering held every four years). We will be praying for you and the needs of our world as you remember us. Thank you!

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6 thoughts on “The Weight of Safe Harbor”

  1. Wow. Just beautiful. This strikes a balance between contemplation and action, and is grounded in compassion. Thank you. Praying for your congregation.

  2. Sister Chris, you never fail to inspire me to stop and examine my life and challenge my comfort. I prayed over your latest reflection and came to a couple of conclusions about my safe harbors. Like so many, I feel inadequate with what is happening in Ukraine and what my response could be. My go-to is prayer, prayer, prayer. Each day I join in the rosary with others, either in Church or on Zoom or Facebook. I take strength in the resolve of the suffering Ukrainians. But here in my safe harbor in Florida for the next month at least, I practice gratitude. We have so much to thank our God for. It puts things into perspective and brings me back to the recognition of how much we are loved and called to share that with others. I will watch for opportunities to help my hurting brothers and sisters. Thank you again for your wake-up call for action. Love, Anne

  3. I will be sharing this exquisite expression of what positive and empowered actions we can take right now with my sanga and Buddhist community. Thanks for once again reaffirming from the heart that we can all be one in thought and deed when we act from a place of commitment and goodness. Thank you Sister.

  4. Yes we are in a safe place, but our hearts are rent as we watch the devastation of the people and land of Ukraine. I think this atrocity is even worse than the 2 years we spent in Covid protocol. Now we are more free to wander about, but what good when our hearts are breaking as we watch what unfolds before us. Yet, I want to see God’s work, God’s plan…and I see the open hands and hearts of those neighboring countries who welcome the fleeing women and children. I see the Chefs who are preparing food for the refugees, Chef Andres who sheds unabashed tears for those fleeing their homeland and all who help in this sacred ministry. My heart is still broken. I have offered my money, and my prayers. I ask God, in your mercy….hear out prayers!

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