A note from your Chaplain

Dear Friends, It seems like only yesterday that spring turned into summer. Now, October is here, with promises of a beautiful fall. Because of COVID-19, we are in a new normal and we are now adjusting as we undertake to do our valuable work in a different way.

Newfoundland and Labrador Search and Rescue is comprised of diverse groups of people coming together in community to assist those in need, but make no mistake, we are made up of keen observers, and as observers, may I dare say, we are starting to notice that the coronavirus pandemic isn’t just costing our community, province and country jobs, sales, restaurant meals, and simple pleasures. There is another, invisible, cost.

I believe one of the most inherent costs, is the loss of the feeling of “well being”. We are social beings and we, for the most part, want to socialize with family and friends and now, we are limited in that ability. COVID is depleting that sense of identity and well-being that comes from interacting with other people. It is impacting our physical, emotional, behavioral and spiritual well being. We are so used to gathering together to do our volunteer work in the community without a thought. Now, when we interact with people beyond family members, we are partially hidden behind masks. It takes all we can muster to stay social distancing and keeping our masks in place.

I do believe we are missing small talk in places where and when we shop and visit. The cues we depend on — eye contact, facial expressions, voice modulations — aren’t available right now. More and more of us are drawing inward. Call it solitude or call it loneliness, the effect might be the same: isolation, losing one’s voice, losing self-confidence. It is the aloneness that causes much distress, and many are grieving the “old life”.

We continue to be compliant of Dr. Fitzgerald’s orders and our hibernation which started with Snowmaggdon, continues. I believe we are resilient enough to have established new routines in our lives and have found ways to stay connected. We may have even realized that some of the changes are good, and that there will be habits worth keeping.

Because of COVID and isolation, this year has been a mentally and emotionally exhausting time for all of us. We are in forced segregation and COVID forces us to internalize. Bad for the body as it is for the soul.

Well, shutting down racing thoughts is easier said than done. Managing anxiety and constant change, making decisions when you have no certainty and being bombarded with information and misinformation leads to days when we feel we just can’t cope.

Please make sure that you take time to take care of your own mental and spiritual health. As we share this long journey ahead of us, self care is an important part of the perseverance needed for this journey. I have some practical tips that Randy and I are using.

If you aren’t already doing so, I would suggest that you limit the amount of news you watch or listen to. Remember, News tends to be negative and violent which can trigger an adrenalin rush and for some, it may prompt memories of events in your past. Limit your time with the news if possible. If you need the highlights, watch for a while, but turn it off or walk away from that stimulus when news starts to loop. Listen or watch something else or better yet, go for a walk, mentally or in real time. Sit quietly. Breathe. Create something with your hands. Call a neighbour or friend, reach out to someone in your address book that you’ve been meaning to call. Make the call.

Christians have been given the commandment to “love your neighbour as yourself,” and other religions have similar instructions imbedded into their beliefs.

These simple yet powerful words are an invitation to go beyond ourselves and see others. It is a way to look beyond our own doors and to see into our community and to assist others who need a hand up. Words of encouragement and deeds or an act of kindness to others assists our own mental health. They create endorphins which elevate our mood. It works. Try it soon, if you can.

Play. Anything. A game or an instrument, just find something that gives you joy and take time for that each and every day.

Share with others. Make extra muffins or cabbage rolls and share it with a neighbour.

Have an attitude of Gratitude. Be thankful for what you do have and give thanks to the Holy, if that is your tradition.

Be kind. Always be kind. Other peoples struggles are not your struggles and you do not know what others have to deal with. What is the expression… We are all in the same storm however we don’t all sail in the same boat.

Be gentle. Be gentle with yourself and with those with whom you are in contact with. COVID has caused so much grief and the events in our world this year have impacted our psyche so profoundly that we need to take good care of ourselves. We have lost a way of life that was important to us and we mourn. Be gentle.

Laugh! At yourself or share a laugh with others. LAUGH OUT LOUD! Make sure that funny bone is still connected to your inner soul and laugh with delight at emails, cartoons or
stories. Read humorous books. Notice the hilarity in the world around us and remember Proverbs 17:22- “A cheerful Heart is good medicine.”

Lastly, I suggest that meditation or prayer can help centre you and give you comfort. If you say you haven’t prayed for years, that’s okay. All you are doing in prayer is having a conversation with the Holy. You don’t need a formula, you just need to formulate the words out loud. Pour out your words, your heart, be honest, state your needs, share your heart. It doesn’t have to be flowery or long. It has to be real. The action of praying aloud is cathartic. It calms and stills a racing heart. It heals and energizes a damaged soul. It gives hope.

My friends, know that you and your families are in my prayers. I pray for patience to get through this troubled time. I pray for courage to always take the high road. I pray for serenity. I am here for you as we travel together on this journey. My phone number is 709-745-8602 should you want to chat.

Jesus said: Love your neighbour as yourself. He also put people to work. He sent them out to serve. He gave them food to distribute. They were to nurture community, not to build walls. They were to overcome their fears, not to turn fear into aggression nor were they to hide. Their hands were to be busy, not idle. We can still learn from these words written down, 2000 years ago.

Stay safe my friends and when we do come back together and start doing things together perhaps there will be more joy and laughter and perhaps we will be stronger and wiser as we remember that Loving your Neighbour as Yourself is the highest form of justice served. Go Gently in the Light,

Rev. Donna Mercer

Chaplain, NLSAR