The September the sky was still dark as we arrived at the airport. The few parked cars scattered across the giant lots looked lonely. We entered the terminal and an eerie silence surrounded the attentive airline agents waiting at their stations.
Travelers were noticeably on edge.
This was not September in a global pandemic. Rather, it was the September when, just two weeks prior, four terrorist attacks on the morning of 9/11 killed thousands. Like the autumn day in 1963 when Sister Leodegar stood somberly at the front of the classroom to tell us that President Kennedy had been shot, the indelible memory of place of hearing the news is etched in my memory.
This September wildfires are raging in 10 states across the western U.S., displacing countless people including close friends. This week over 10,000 vulnerable souls living in the squalor of a Greek refugee camp streamed into the streets and into hopelessness when a fire swept through the camp.
This September our quiet airport reflects a response not to fear following deaths in a single day. Instead, it reflects a response to a growing daily death toll from a virus that has killed nearly 200,000 Americans so far.
Emptiness. Terror. Death. Devastation. The scenes repeat, both near and far. Even when our personal lives are protected by some miraculous mixture of privilege and fate, we are not immune to feeling the loss. We grieve for those we love and for those we’ve never known.
What do we do when the world seems an endless sea of suffering? How much of it can I bear to bear witness to? As we cope with our own worries about the balance in our bank account, fears of attending a funeral, and loneliness from lack of seeing loved ones, how do we keep hope?
Within 72 hours of that September flight nineteen years ago, I heard the phrase “life coaching” for the first time. Intuitively though not intellectually I knew it would become my life’s work. It did. Nearly two decades later, remembering this moment gives me hope.
If I’m able to stay present to today’s hope, I can hope that in the next 72 hours more hope will arrive to carry me through any news near or far.
I wish the same for you.
How does a memory of a past loss affect your feelings today?
How do you cope with the overwhelm of suffering you see?
How can you hold on to hope today?