Rx for Virus Infected Souls

Back to the Future in 1918

A small gravestone next to my grandparents’ graves in Pennsylvania marks the grave of John Harrold, their first-born, two-year-old son who died in 1918.  Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 9.40.19 AM

Harrold’s siblings are all gone so there’s no one to confirm it, but our understanding is that Harrod’s death was not a direct result of the flu epidemic that killed 670,000 people in the the United States and something toward 100 million around the globe. But I remembered the year on his gravestone when I read an article in the Smithsonian magazine on  “How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America” .  It’s well worth reading.Screen Shot 2020-03-14 at 9.36.37 AM

A lot has changed since 1918, but there are disturbing similarities, particularly the way the infection spread among massive crowds and the Woodrow Wilson administration downplayed the enormity of the epidemic.  It’s a reminder that history matters.  Learning from the past, we can be better equipped to deal with the present.

So, here we are again. Disney World is closed. Broadway is dark.  March Madness is cancelled. Our major research universities are empty and teaching online. Medical authorities are concerned that unless the virus is contained, hospitals could run out of beds.  The churches are empty, though those with the technology are offering worship online.  And some folks, driven more by politics than science, continue to call it a “media driven hoax.” But to quote Ben Franklin, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  (Even if the prevention weighs more than a ton right now!)

An Rx for Virus-Infected Souls

It all feels very overwhelming right now.  As I tried to pray about it this morning, I identified with Paul saying, “We don’t know how to pray.”  (Romans 8:26-27)  Then I went for my morning walk.  I felt the cool morning breeze and the warmth of the sun.  I heard the birds singing to each other in the trees that line the streets of our neighborhood.  I saw fresh, green leaves popping out on oaks and azaleas exploding with color. I remembered watching the sunrise from a friend’s porch at Crystal River last week. PUb3FNKQREinw76gHkcv2Q

That’s when I realized that “social distancing” doesn’t mean remaining cooped up inside with cable network news as our only companion. There’s a big, beautiful world outside just waiting for us. Fresh air doesn’t carry CVID-19 and you don’t need to be tested to feel the sunshine.  In fact, during the 1918 epidemic they  moved patients into the sunlight to encourage their healing.

And then I remembered a hymn I’ve sung so long that I can’t remember not knowing it.

This is my father’s world
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres

This is my father’s world

The birds their carols raise
The morning light, the lily white
Declare their maker’s praise

This is my father’s world

I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas
His hand the wonders wrought

This is my father’s world

Oh, let me never forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet

This is my father’s world

Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is king, let the heavens ring
God reigns, let the earth be glad

This is my father’s world

He shines in all that’s fair
In the rustling grass, I hear him pass
He speaks to me everywhere
So, if you feel like your soul has been infected by COVID-19, here’s my prescription: Go outside!  Breathe some fresh air.  Walk down the silent streets of the city or along a quiet country lane.  Feel the sunshine.  Listen for God to speak to your troubled soul through the beauty of God’s creation.
You’ll still need to wash your hands, but you may be able to do it with a song in your soul.
Grace and peace,

P.S. One of my friends responded to this blog with this eloquently appropriate poem.

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM





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11 thoughts on “Rx for Virus Infected Souls

  1. Thank you for your words of hope and encouragement My husband and I just finished a walk around Lake Junaluska in the beautiful mountains of WNC. My morning message on Facebook Live to my congregation was based on Psalm 121. May you feel God’s peace as you navigate the days ahead. Susan Slye Giles

  2. This put a song in my soul which sorely needed one! Thanks, Jim. God bless you.

  3. Thank you SO MUCH, Jim!! I needed to hear that! Refreshing, uplifting and TRUE! Thank you.

  4. My wife and I are the oldest people on our short block. We have had two different neighbors checking with us to see if we need any help and leaving their phones numbers. It would seem to me that if ever there was a time to put into practice Christ’s teaching of loving God and your neighbor as yourself, it is now.

  5. Cheryl Becknerb March 15, 2020 — 10:50 pm

    So beautiful, Jim. Thank you!

    Sent from my iPad


  6. It’s quiet uptown….going through the unimaginable…..Reverend Jim can’t miss the opportunity for a Hamilton musical quote; your blog is always a comfort thanks for your post!

  7. Just really lifted my soul Jim. It just so happens my bookclub is reading the great influenza about the 1918 pandemic. Hope you’re well and taking good care of yourself I went to work last Wednesday and Thursday so Jannie has kept me out of The kitchen with my own little wife enforced isolation. She told me tonight if I want to work tomorrow I would be put. on 14 day wife enforced isolation. Whew. Life is tough around here. I think I’ll just walk around the yard tomorrow And sing This is my fathers world Sent from my iPhoneb


  8. Rebecca Sickles March 16, 2020 — 5:04 am

    This lifted the spirits of me and our adult daughter! She was unusually quiet and non-responsive all day. After a heart-to-heart talk this evening, I learned just how afraid she had become because of everything she’s been hearing about coronavirus. Over the last week we’ve reviewed do’s and don’t’s and she’s had lots of questions, but I hadn’t realized how fearful she had become. She’s young and healthy, but requires a wheelchair, so maybe she feels more vulnerable in a situation beyond her control than I realized. We talked about strategies to deal with this kind of fear – facts, talking, sharing feelings, prayer, songs, music, outdoors, exercise, reading, funny movies, etc. – and ended our conversation with a prayer. Then I went to my computer and read your blog. It was perfect timing to share your “Rx for the infected soul” with my daughter. How wonderful to see her first big smile of the day! God bless you and thanks.

    1. Thanks! Your message is a beautiful gift of encouragement for me!

  9. Great post, and just the words I needed. What a beautiful morning it is!

    Bruce M. Tigert
    Commercial Specialist

    Bayshore Title, a division of LandCastle Title Group, LLC
    3431 Henderson Boulevard|Tampa|Florida|33609
    Office (813) 878-0066|Fax (813) 876-1298

  10. Helpful…At almost 80 (4/11) one of my personal song choices is “Staying Alive”!

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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