In the middle of the season of spring, the month of May “bursts” in, inviting renewed energy, warm sun, cleansing rains, greening of trees and colorful blossoms. Natural movements in nature, carry us from the cold of winter to the warm sprouts of spring, awaking our hopes for renewed life. I wonder, is all the variegated “greening” of the earth in the season of spring the reason why the color green is the designated color of hope?
I think of “Beginners” by Denise Levertov:
“But we have only begun to love the earth. We have only begun to imagine the fullness of life. How could we tire of hope? So much is in bud. How can desire fail? – we have only begun to imagine justice and mercy, only begun to envision how it might be to live as siblings with beast and flower, not as oppressors. Surely our river cannot already be hastening in to the sea of nonbeing? Surely it cannot drag, in the silt, all that is innocent? Not yet, not yet – there is too much broken that must be mended, too much hurt that we have done to each other that cannot yet be forgiven. We have only begun to know the power that is in us if we would join our solitudes in the communion of struggle. So much is unfolding that must complete its gesture, so much is in bud.”
As I look around the world for what is in bud, I become increasingly aware of beginnings of new life. I share some beginnings that give me hope in the future. The world of scientific research has brought forth new vaccines that promise to wind down the current Pandemic. Around the globe health authorities come together to deliver these vaccines to millions of waiting people. The world of agriculture has developed a new strategy called “regenerative agriculture” that promises to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and back into the earth. What an amazing sign of hope this promises for our ailing planet! The world of criminal justice is becoming acutely aware of need for police reform, not only in our country, but across continents. Voices of social justice are gaining strength to increase local and national authorities’ awareness of the need for reform by redirecting funds to more appropriate programs that better serve the social needs of communities. Voices of change are beginning to be heard in the cry for restorative programs like community policing, and compassionate mental health response to crises by funding more community intervention teams. New light is being shown on the sin of racism that opens the eyes and hearts of people willing to make changes that lead to increasing levels of inclusion, respect and dignity. The buds of social justice and care of our planet are definitely sprouting.
The month of May is designated “Mental Health Awareness Month.” This time of Pandemic has sparked fear, confusion and anxiety; loss, sadness, and depression; personal and work relationship stress; and institutional challenges, putting strain on ourselves and the communities in which we live, pray and work. These enormous personal and collective challenges to our wellbeing have sparked peaked interest in restoring and maintaining our mental health. I see this raised interest in Mental Health issues as invitation to include the ongoing needs of those who have lived with a wide variety of mental illnesses for years and years before this Pandemic emerged, from crisis, diagnosis, and treatment all the way through recovery. Yes, recovery is possible today due to many advances in the understanding of mental illnesses as “bio-chemical brain disease.”
On a more personal note, May is the time I remember my only sibling, Edward, and his life long journey with Schizophrenia. When our mother died in 2002, Edward moved to Minnesota to be cared for by me and my family. Feeling alone and overwhelmed by this unsought responsibility, I eventually reached out to God, NAMI Minnesota and Vail Place in Hopkins. Leaning on the Holy Spirit, I looked inward to find the courage to believe that I was strong enough to use my “personal power” to help Edward. NAMI’s workshops and programs provided the information that gave me confidence to become my brother’s advocate. Vail Place Hopkins offered membership to Edward that supported his needs for housing, supportive employment, and meaningful social relationships. In the words of Denise Levertov, I had joined my solitude into the communion of struggle with Edward.
With God’s loving grace, I continue to reach out to people living with mental illness, and those who care for them, as a volunteer with NAMI, facilitating Family to Family programs and Hope for Recovery workshops. (www.namimn.org) I also offer Spiritual Direction to caregivers of and those in recovery from mental illness. (firstname.lastname@example.org) I like to say, “You are not alone, you didn’t cause this, and there is hope for recovery.” On May 5,and again on May 31, Memorial Day, we remember the day of Edward’s sudden passing in 2012 by gratefully recalling the gifts he gave us all… his amazing patience, his quiet courage, his warm kindness, his gentle laughter, his loving friendship.
With Pentecost, May 23, just behind us, I recall the hope filled promise of the Holy Spirit in the words of the Gospel of John, 14:16-17: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” May the Holy Spirit empower us all with gifts of advocacy and truth.
I close with reflection questions, inviting you to ponder, these last few days of May:
As you look around your world, what is in bud? What beginnings of new life do you see?
Where do you experience the joining of solitudes into the communion of struggle?
What is the new bud opening in you?
Which “perennial” gift lies dormant in you, waiting to burst forth?
To what new loving awareness might the Holy Spirit be calling you at this time in history?