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May 05, 2020
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TODAY’S INTRO

Irish-Native American empathy without borders

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Today’s five selected stories cover the role of trust in fighting a pandemic, protecting meat packers and the food supply, the value of an online college class, the rise of reconciliation within families, and American dads stepping up at home.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Pay it forward.” 

Well, 173 years later, the Irish are returning a favor. 

In 1847, in the depths of the Great Potato Famine, members of the Choctaw Nation gave $170 (worth about $5,000 today) to Ireland. Why? Long-distance empathy.

Just a few years before, some 60,000 Native Americans (including the Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, and other tribes) had known suffering, starvation, and death during a forced relocation march known as the Trail of Tears.

Today, the Navajo Nation has been hit harder by COVID-19 than any other Native American reservation. And many Irish have responded by supporting a GoFundMe campaign that’s raised more than $1.9 million for the Navajo and Hopi nations in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. 

“Thank you, IRELAND, for showing solidarity and being here for us,” wrote Vanessa Tulley, one of the Navajo relief organizers in Arizona.

On Monday, Joseph Webb donated $50 and wrote: “In remembrance of your ancestors and their kindness to the people of Ireland. We are one world and one people, together we will get through this. Be safe.”

Empathy knows no borders. And kindness has no expiration date.

Key tools to fight pandemic? Communication and respect, Ebola experts say.

Africa has much to teach the world about addressing a pandemic. You combat fear and uncertainty, health experts tell our reporter, with trust, transparency, and compassion.

David
Al-hadji Kudra Maliro/AP
Martine Milonde (left) a Congolese community mobilizer who works with the aid group World Vision in Beni, Congo, discusses coronavirus prevention April 10, 2020. Congo has been battling an Ebola outbreak for more than 18 months, and now it must also face COVID-19.

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Last month, Massachusetts began an aggressive contact-tracing program to stop the spread of COVID-19, led by the international charity Partners in Health. It’s just one example of lessons experts are applying from past pandemics – particularly the Ebola outbreak that killed more than 11,000 people, mostly in West Africa.

“Building ties to communities is so important to the work we do, whether it’s in Massachusetts or Sierra Leone,” says John Welch, of Partners in Health. “Sitting with people and asking: Do you understand what this virus is and what you need to do to stay safe? Do you have the resources to stay home? That kind of knowledge happens through human connection at a person-to-person level.”

Those lessons seem especially pertinent in the United States, as thousands of Americans have protested lockdown orders.

“When people feel they are being treated like children, they treat responders like the enemy,” says Nonhlanhla Tryphine Ngwabi, a Zimbabwean nurse who worked for the World Health Organization during the Ebola outbreak. “We forget over and over this simple lesson we learned in West Africa: Listen to communities. Listen to their fears. Listen to why they are skeptical. And then show them that their concerns matter.”

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1. Key tools to fight pandemic? Communication and respect, Ebola experts say.

It isn’t often that the United States takes public health advice from West Africa. But as the COVID-19 pandemic has ripped through societies unused to dealing with massive disease outbreaks, experts around the world are beginning to lean on the lessons from past epidemics – in particular, the 2014 to 2016 Ebola outbreak.

For instance, Massachusetts recently began an aggressive program to trace the contacts of every new case of coronavirus in the state, and then help them isolate to stop the disease from spreading. That project is led by Partners in Health, a medical charity that has honed its skills in contact tracing around the world, including during West Africa’s deadly Ebola outbreak that killed more than 11,000 people, largely in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

“We’re working on a method here that is not a theory,” Gov. Charlie Baker told the Boston Globe last month. “It’s been done, and been done well in many other places.”

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

Unlike coronavirus contact tracing done in east Asia, however, the Massachusetts program is distinctly low-tech – relying not on digital surveillance but on one-on-one phone conversations between contact tracers and possible carriers.

And that, experts say, marks one of the most important lessons the fight against COVID-19 can learn from the fight against Ebola: It isn’t only medical technology that wins the war against disease. Sometimes, it also takes something much simpler – compassion.

“Building ties to communities is so important to the work we do, whether it’s in Massachusetts or Sierra Leone,” says John Welch, co-lead for Partners in Health’s contact tracing program in Massachusetts. “Sitting with people and asking, do you understand what this virus is and what you need to do to stay safe? Do you have the resources to stay home? That kind of knowledge happens through human connection at a person-to-person level.”

Those lessons seem especially pertinent in the United States in recent weeks, as thousands of Americans around the country have participated in mass protests in defiance of lockdown orders.

“We saw similar protests in West Africa” during the Ebola outbreak, and for similar reasons, says Khadija Alia Bah, a Sierra Leonean anthropologist who worked for the Ebola response in her country. In both the U.S. and West Africa, people received confusing, sometimes contradictory information on how to keep themselves safe. And their orders to stay home came from people they didn’t trust to keep their best interests in mind.

“I’m gonna do what I got to do to feed my family,” one protester in Pennsylvania told the BBC, explaining why he had defied the state’s lockdown order. “I don’t have any food and we’re scared,” a resident of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, told Reuters during anti-lockdown protests there in 2014.

The protests weren’t exactly the same, of course. West African protests frequently were fueled by police violence used to enforce lockdowns. The American protests, meanwhile, have been deeply partisan, spurred on by encouragement from President Donald Trump. But they share an important common thread, says Nonhlanhla Tryphine Ngwabi, a Zimbabwean nurse who worked as an infection prevention and control officer for the World Health Organization in Sierra Leone during the West African Ebola outbreak.

“When people feel they are being treated like children, they treat responders like the enemy,” she says. “We forget over and over this simple lesson we learned in West Africa: Listen to communities. Listen to their fears. Listen to why they are skeptical. And then show them that their concerns matter.”

Familiar faces

Like COVID-19, Ebola didn’t only make people ill. It warped the shape of daily life. Orders came from far away commanding that children be pulled out of school and businesses closed. Lockdowns and curfews became commonplace. The sick and dying, meanwhile, had to be isolated far from their families, scrambling what people understood about how to take care of the people they loved.

Jerome Delay/AP/File
Health workers dressed in protective gear begin their shift at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Congo, July 16, 2019.

Those abrupt changes to daily life scared and confused people, Ms. Bah says, especially when they were delivered by officials who spoke the cold language of infection rates and confirmed cases – rather than discussing the disease’s impact in human terms.

“What experts tend to forget is that diseases live in people, and that it is people who must be at the heart of every disease response,” she says.

And to reach people, she and others say, you must go through leaders they trust.

“If you involve local communities and their leaders directly, they’re more likely to follow the rules,” says Kou Gbaintor-Johnson, a nurse, researcher, and community organizer in Monrovia, Liberia.

That might mean, for instance, hiring people in hard-hit communities to work as contact tracers or to care for the sick, as health organizations did during the recent Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Or it might mean devoting more resources to training religious leaders, teachers, and other community leaders on how to provide clear, accurate information to those around them.

During Liberia’s Ebola outbreak, for instance, Ms. Gbaintor-Johnson was the community chairperson for a neighborhood in Monrovia. As the disease spread, she met with other community leaders and they made a plan. They’d canvas the area themselves, explaining one-on-one why the disease was dangerous, and that it was important to abide by the rules authorities had put in place to stop its spread. And then, she says, they listened to people’s concerns. If they were worried they’d go hungry because they couldn’t work, Ms. Gbaintor-Johnson’s team considered how to get them food. If they were scared for the future, she leveled with them: She was too.

“If people feel like we’re in this fight together, they’re going to try to do their best,” she says. 

Confusion and inequality

In many countries, experts on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa say, the information given to the public on COVID-19 has been muddled and inconsistent, and the result has been fear and uncertainty. In the U.S., for instance, President Trump has publicly questioned the effectiveness of lockdowns and offered his own, scientifically suspect, potential treatments for COVID-19. In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially flouted social-distancing advice. Soon after agreeing to impose stricter measures, he himself was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“When you see people rebelling [against restrictions to stop COVID-19], what’s really happening is a problem of trust,” says Ms. Ngwabi, the infection control and prevention officer during the Ebola outbreak. “People rebel when they feel voiceless.”

Experts see other lessons, too.

For instance, disease outbreaks often become a pretext for racism and xenophobia, says Kevin J.A. Thomas, a Sierra Leonean sociologist at Pennsylvania State University who wrote a book on African immigrants in Dallas during the Ebola crisis. In both the Ebola and coronavirus outbreaks, groups seen as close to the disease’s origins – West Africans and East Asians, respectively – have been the targets of hate crimes and discrimination. 

For Mr. Welch, with Partners in Health, another important lesson from the Ebola outbreak is that infectious diseases never strike members of a society equally.

“The poor and the marginalized will always suffer in ways that are innumerable and preventable,” he says. Almost everywhere in the world, he notes, poverty is a kind of preexisting condition, limiting people’s access to accurate information and good health care, and often making them distrustful of those in power. “Now is the time to shine a spotlight on why that is, and get to addressing the root causes,” he says.

But even if COVID-19 is no social equalizer, experts hope it could be a source of global empathy. In the future, perhaps countries fighting disease outbreaks won’t be looked upon with distant pity, Ms. Bah says, or worse, with disdain for resisting the epidemic’s strange “rules.”

“No one has to imagine these fears anymore,” she says, “because we have all lived them.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article mischaracterized New Zealand’s contact tracing program.

Inside a hotspot: Voices from the floor of a meat-packing plant

Our reporter talks to meat packers in Waterloo, Iowa, about the realities of being an “essential employee” in the nation’s food supply and protecting themselves and their families.

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What do you do when the people who help feed America can’t – or won’t – go to work? A Tyson pork processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa, offers a window into the challenges facing workers and businesses amid the pandemic. “I understand that we are vital to putting the food out there for not just America but the whole world,” says one employee who tested positive for COVID-19. “But if we are so vital to doing that, why not take care of us?”

The plant suspended operations on April 22 – one of about 20 slaughterhouses and meat-processing plants to have shut down around the country. The closures will have consequences for consumers and for hog farmers who now have nowhere to send their animals. Iowa’s governor, senators, and agricultural secretary have urgently requested federal help.

The pressures on plants to stay open are immense, but staying open can risk the well-being of those who keep them humming, many of whom have felt overlooked. Now, mayors, legislators, and health officials are rallying around Waterloo’s workers, with a local sheriff saying Monday that he was seeing “massive improvements” at Tyson.

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2. Inside a hotspot: Voices from the floor of a meat-packing plant

Even before Iowa started shutting down due to the current pandemic, Khalil El-Amin’s employer gave him a special letter. It explained that he was an essential worker, in case the state went into lockdown and he got pulled over on the way to work.

He still has it in his glove box, even though he’s no longer commuting to his job at Tyson Fresh Meats in Waterloo, Iowa.

No one is.

On April 22, Tyson suspended operations in Waterloo, its largest pork-processing plant in the country, saying that protecting their 2,800 employees was its top priority. The move came amid intensifying pressure from local elected officials, increasing reports of positive COVID-19 cases at the plant, and hundreds of workers not showing up for their shifts amid rising health concerns.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

The situation illustrates the dilemmas facing meat-packing plants, an essential part of America’s food supply chain. The pressures to stay open are immense, but public health officials say staying open can risk the well-being of those who keep them humming. More broadly, some workers say they have long felt overlooked and undervalued.

“I understand that we are vital to putting the food out there for not just America but the whole world,” says another Tyson worker who has tested positive for COVID-19 and agreed to speak on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. “But if we are so vital to doing that, why not take care of us?”

Tyson’s Waterloo operation is one of about 20 slaughterhouses and meat-processing plants industry-wide that have shut down across the country as nearly 5,000 employees have been diagnosed with the disease. Last week’s pork production was down about 40% compared to the same period last year. For now, frozen and refrigerated meat is helping to fill the gap. Meanwhile hog farmers are facing the heart-wrenching prospect of mass euthanization.

In a bid to keep the meat supply chain running, President Donald Trump last week invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act in an executive order urging meat processing plants to run at the maximum extent possible ­– a move that experts say is designed to give the plants legal cover if employees fall ill.

The disruption is bringing to light a broad range of concerns about the U.S. meat supply chain, from a lack of flexibility and agility to the treatment of not only animals but also the people who work long hours to bring meat to American tables.

“I think there’s this tension of providing food … and then making sure that the people are safe,” says Rev. Belinda Creighton-Smith, a Baptist pastor and social justice leader in Waterloo, who says more than a dozen plant employees have come to her with their concerns. “We need to make sure that we’re taking care of our brothers and sisters first and foremost and not being concerned that we’re cutting into our profits and production slowing down.”

How the pressure built on Tyson

A third Tyson employee, whose name is being withheld for his protection, inspects gutted hogs and takes pride in the company’s high standards for its meat. One day in April, he says, he overheard supervisors at work discussing positive cases at the plant.

The next two days, he called in to say he wouldn’t be coming to work. Both times, he says, human resources told him he was more likely to get COVID-19 shopping at Walmart than coming to work, where he would be safe.

He came back on the third day, only to find out that someone he worked near that day fell ill after work. “I needed the money,” he says, but worried about endangering his baby son and his girlfriend. “It almost seemed like, man, we just was almost considered throwaways instead of essential workers.”

Mr. El-Amin, on the other hand, who works on the loading dock and has limited interaction with other employees during his shift, says he’s been impressed by the company’s proactive approach. They deployed workers to wipe down his forklift every other hour, he says, put up signs in the hallways, installed temperature scanners for arriving employees, and erected plexiglass barriers at the lunch tables. Before they were able to procure masks, they handed out cotton bandanas.

“I felt like, ‘Wow, they’re really trying to do something for us here,’ ” he says.

Courtesy of Khalil El-Amin
Khalil El-Amin worked at the loading dock at Tyson Fresh Meats in Waterloo, Iowa, before it temporarily suspended operations on April 22, 2020.

Many meat-packing workers come from minority backgrounds and other populations that have been disproportionately impacted by the current crisis. Tyson is one of the largest employers in Waterloo and employs a diverse workforce, including many foreign workers, some of whom have limited English skills and rely on company-provided interpreters.

While workers say the pay is good and it offers a rare opportunity for those without a college degree to advance into management positions, the company has come under fire for how it has handled the coronavirus crisis.

“The health and safety of our team members is our top priority, and we take this responsibility extremely seriously,” said Tyson spokeswoman Liz Croston in a statement to the Monitor. She said the plant has provided and enforced the use of PPE for its workers, checked them for symptoms, and carried out a deep clean and sanitization while the plant is idle. The company, which does not offer paid sick days, has also relaxed its attendance policy and eliminated waiting periods for short-term disability coverage, which now covers 90% of regular pay for those diagnosed with COVID-19.

“We are continuing to work closely [with] health officials to ensure our efforts meet or exceed local, state, and national guidelines,” she added.

One of those health officials is Sheriff Tony Thompson, who oversees the planning and operations for the local emergency center spearheading the response to COVID-19.

On April 10, he visited the Tyson plant with the county health department director and another colleague. He says he observed that only about a third of employees were wearing facial coverings and there was no apparent enforcement of PPE.

That day, Tyson knew that they had three positive cases of COVID-19, but public health officials knew the total case numbers among plant employees was in the teens, Sheriff Thompson adds. Yet the plant was being thoroughly cleaned only once per day, around 11:30 p.m. after three shifts of workers had been through. 

As he left the plant, he recalls turning to his colleagues and saying, “They just drove a Mack truck through our defenses…. We’ve got to shut this down.”

Within a week, he and 19 other local officials – including six state representatives and seven mayors – signed a letter urging Tyson to voluntarily cease operations.

Democratic state Rep. Ras Smith, a signatory who lives two miles from the plant, said the hope was to avoid broader losses by all parties.

“It wasn’t about Tyson vs. them, or Waterloo vs. the pork producers,” he says. “If we act aggressively now,” the thinking went, “we can save ourselves heartache, cost, and lives in the future.”

The county currently has identified more than 1,500 cases and 18 deaths. The Iowa Department of Public Health on Tuesday declared outbreaks at five meat facilities in Iowa, and said that so far it has identified 444 cases from the Waterloo plant, with 17% of workers tested so far. Two workers from Tyson’s Columbus Junction plant have died.

At a press conference on Monday, Sheriff Thompson praised Tyson for “massive improvements” toward making their plant safe. A meeting Friday with Tyson representatives “was an energizing and encouraging first step forward to get that plant reopened.”

The people behind the bacon

Iowa is the top pork producer in America, and the shutdown of plants like the one in Waterloo has created a significant bottleneck. Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes has described the pork supply chain as an escalator that can’t be turned off. If you put a gate at the top, the pigs pile up quickly, with nowhere to go. They gain weight so rapidly that even during a short plant closure they could become too big for a plant to accommodate when it reopens.

The USDA has confirmed $1.6 billion in support for pork producers. But it’s not just financial losses farmers are worried about.

Many are trying desperately to prevent their hogs from going to waste, from feeding them extra fiber to slow down their weight gain to selling live hogs to hunters who will use the meat for their family, says Iowa Pork Producers Association CEO Pat McGonegle.

“We are using every tool we have to find every avenue that is available,” he says, including using local butchers to process the meat for food banks across the state. “Not in my 30 years of doing the pig business have I seen anything like this.”

One thing the pandemic has revealed is the need for greater flexibility and agility in the meat supply chain, says Bobby Martens, a professor of supply chain management at Iowa State University’s business school. One of the early reasons for the bottlenecks was meat that had been packaged for restaurants rather than individual sale suddenly had nowhere to go when they shut down in March.

The worker safety issue is even more challenging. It’s easy to say in hindsight that Tyson should have shut down earlier, but they were balancing a lot of factors, including a potential customer backlash, he says.

“Tyson was between a rock and a hard place with some of the decisions they had to make, because consumers were not likely to understand why meat prices were so high, why pork wasn’t in the store, and at the same time [they] were balancing the health and well-being of their workers,” Professor Martens says.

As for the worker with a girlfriend and young child, he’s been quarantining since April 20. He has yet to see a paycheck, even though Tyson has said it would continue to pay employees. His rent is due by Thursday, and funds are running low.

The worker who has tested positive says he hopes Americans shopping in the supermarket are becoming more aware of the people who bring them the bacon, so to speak – from the farmers to the truck drivers to the processing plant workers.

“We’re behind the scenes until there’s a pandemic or something like this that comes along, and it’s put out there that, ‘Hey, this is what’s being done for you to go in there and pick it off the shelf and put it in your oven, or your skillet,’ ” he says. “Until this came along, I don’t think the average person even thought about what all is done for the meat to get out there to them.”

A deeper look

Forgive me? More families say yes during coronavirus crisis.

One survey shows 1 in 3 Americans are estranged from family members. But our reporter looks at why the pandemic is prompting some families to prioritize reconciliation and grace.

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Jez Carleton told himself that he’d forgiven his adoptive father. But his therapist disagreed. When Mr. Carleton, a nanny in Melbourne, Australia, heard his father had been hospitalized with COVID-19, he had to decide whether to reach out. His father had expressed disappointment in his adopted son’s supposed lack of achievement. The two men hadn’t spoken in six years.

“I have always felt that he wanted to return me to the adoption agency because I was ‘faulty,’” says Mr. Carleton, who is gay. “I could never meet his high expectations.”

But the coronavirus crisis hastened introspection. “Everyone has faults and I have many faults,” he says. “Especially at this time of the world, I am trying to stop judging people. And then you have to forgive them.”

By stripping away the customs, comforts, and circumstances once taken for granted, the crisis has led people to reconsider what’s most important, and caused some to make efforts toward reconciliation or forgiveness.

Once Mr. Carleton plucked up the courage to call, he felt a calmness he hadn’t experienced during previous interactions.

“When the nurse told him that I was on the phone, I heard Dad say, ‘Jeremy!’ But it was a nice, surprised exclamation,” says Mr. Carleton.

“I told him I loved him at the end of the conversation,” says Mr. Carleton, who says he cried with relief afterward. “I meant it.”

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3. Forgive me? More families say yes during coronavirus crisis.

When the COVID-19 shutdown started, Kristen Simpson’s thoughts turned to the father she barely knows.

He’d separated from her mother when she was a baby, and was never around much after that, even after her mother died. Battling a drug addiction, he’d ended up in jail. Ms. Simpson admits that her response was “really ugly” the one time he tried to initiate contact when she was a young adult.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

Thirteen years on, the arrival of the pandemic made her reevaluate their relationship. “I don’t want another one of my parents to not be here,” says Ms. Simpson, now an illustrator and mother in Fayetteville, Georgia. “We don’t know how much time we have to make things right in this coronavirus, knowing that he works for a job where he has to leave his house and safety.”  

She was aware that her father, long clean of drugs, works as a pizza delivery man in Florida. A few weeks ago, she cold-called him to apologize for how she’d spurned him.  

“I was scared he was going to reject me,” she says. “When we got on FaceTime together, his smile was just so bright. We were mirrors of each other smiling at one another. And it was a really good conversation.”

By stripping away the customs, comforts, and circumstances once taken for granted, the COVID-19 crisis has led people to reconsider what’s most important in their lives. Many of them have concluded that the security and affection of family – even if only at the other end of a phone line or video chat – is paramount. Consequently, some individuals who have long been estranged from family members have made efforts toward reconciliation and forgiveness, or are considering it. 

“When people do cut off contact with a family member or a parent, in their own heart and mind, it may not be with the idea that it’s going to be permanent,” says Joshua Coleman, a psychologist and author of the upcoming book “Rules of Estrangement.” “But the virus really shortens that timeline and provides a frame of ‘Well, how would I feel if I never reconcile with this person?’”

Shift in emphasis

The variety of reasons for estrangement underscore Leo Tolstoy’s maxim that “each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Some adults cut ties with parents or siblings who have been critical of their choice of spouse, their style of parenting, their sexuality, or their values. Sometimes adult children need to declare independence from parents who have either coddled or abused them. Then, too, say observers, a rise of individualism – particularly among millennials – has eroded traditional attachment to family.

“There’s much more of an emphasis on ‘What relationships make me feel happy or good and which ones don’t?’” says Dr. Coleman. “The idea that it’s an act of existential courage to cut off people from your life that don’t promote personal happiness, that’s a relatively new cultural concept.” 

Dede Hatch/Courtesy of Dr. Karl Pillemer
Karl Pillemer, a professor of human development at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, has estimated that about a quarter of adult Americans have an active estrangement with a relative.

Until recently, there wasn’t a lot of self-help literature or academic study about estrangements between family members. It’s been a largely closeted issue because of the stigma of admitting familial schisms to others. However, a yet-to-be-published survey of 1,300 people conducted by Karl Pillemer, a professor of human development at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, found that about a quarter of adult Americans have an active estrangement with a relative. A series of follow-up interviews with around 300 of the random sample of respondents revealed that roughly 100 of them had mended the relationships, while the other 200 or so remained unreconciled with the other party.

“As time goes on, it becomes more and more difficult to take that first step,” says Professor Pillemer, sociologist and author of the upcoming book “Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them.” “What the current pandemic does is it offers that kind of an opportunity. Now it’s a logical time for a low-risk outreach of ‘How are you doing?’”

A time for reaching out

Since the onset of the coronavirus crisis, Professor Pillemer says several people in his personal network have reached out to him to share stories of how they have reconciled. They include a father and daughter who hadn’t talked for two years because of political differences and sisters who’d been distant for decades.  

Dr. Pillemer has also heard stories from strangers. Daniela Dawson was in her 20s when she cut herself off from her family in 2007. Growing up sandwiched between two brothers, Ms. Dawson says the close family was enmeshed with each other. Too much so. She began to feel judged by the others. 

“It’s not unusual for my family to talk about feelings – that’s probably why it’s so easy for us to get them hurt,” says Ms. Dawson, a data scientist who lives in Lake Forest, Illinois. 

Courtesy of Daniela Dawson
Daniela Dawson with her husband, Edward Dawson, and son, Evan.

Ms. Dawson credits her persistent mother and youngest brother for reestablishing their relationships some years ago. But she’d been unwilling to reconcile with her older brother. The married mother of four imagined funeral scenarios in which she’d died without ever talking to him again. Until the COVID-19 crisis, she thought she was OK with that. When Ms. Dawson’s mother mentioned that her oldest son had asked how his sister was holding up, something in her shifted. She called her brother.

“The first thing we did was just talk about what we’ve missed out on,” she says, laughing. “Both of us, just immediately, kind of were like, ‘This was silly.’” Now they’re video calling each other almost every day.

Those who’ve either reconciled with or forgiven others often talk about feeling as if a burdensome weight had been lifted off them. Their experience was one of learning something about themselves. That’s often led to improvements in other relationships, including romantic ones. Dr. Pillemer’s interviews also revealed that those who’d made efforts toward reconciliation said it was a powerful engine for personal growth. Overcoming that big challenge equipped them to tackle other limitations.

For Ms. Simpson, the reconciliation with her father has given her a new perspective on other areas of life, including the strength to set aside a lifelong debilitating fear of spiders that has affected her ability to spend time outdoors. She’s also now eager to take her family to visit her father once travel becomes possible again. “Our whole household is at a balance that we haven’t had before,” she says. 

Careful consideration and humility

Still, people who reconcile need to think through all the ramifications first, Dr. Pillemer and others note. Therapists and those who have reconciled also say extraordinary grace is required.

“The first thing is, are you making this decision from a strong place or a place of fear?” says Becca Bland, whose series of online workshops for adult children, “COVID-19 and Family Estrangement,” have quickly filled up in the past month. “The second thing is also understanding that if it’s going to be reconciliation, it’s not just going to be you reconciling. It’s ‘we’ and everybody in that situation is going to have to change and move for it to work.” 

Some counselors encourage patients to look for the kernel of truth in the other person’s complaint. That doesn’t mean relinquishing the integrity of one’s own experience, but it does help build one side of the bridge. 

Courtesy of Daniela Dawson
Daniela Dawson with her oldest brother Kenly Sommers (left), from whom she had been estranged, and her youngest brother, Josue Sommers. At the time of the photo, Kenly was 23, Daniela was 20, and Josue was 18.

Following her own reconciliation experience, Ms. Dawson says that she now realizes that her family members weren’t malicious or trying to hurt her. But her youthful insecurities meant that she began to develop a pattern of cutting people out of her life rather than reveal vulnerability and address the situation directly. It was the sincerity of her family’s outreach that spoke to her.

“Nothing is more compelling to another person than when we say, ‘I failed you, or I hurt you, or I damaged you,’” says Dr. Coleman, whose practice centers on parents whose children have cut ties with them. “Sometimes parents will protest, ‘Well, I’m not going to humiliate myself with my own child.’ My perspective is it’s not humiliation, it’s humility.”

Weighing forgiveness 

What people often grapple with, too, is how to forgive – which can look different and happen at a different pace for everyone, counselors say.   

“Forgiveness does not mean that reconciliation is necessary,” says Dr. Bland, founder of Stand Alone, a U.K. nonprofit that supports adults who aren’t in contact with their parents. “Forgiveness is about leaving something behind. It’s about letting it go out of view. It’s not saying it was right, what happened. ... And it’s not saying that you could ever stomach risking anything like that ever happening again.”

In Ms. Dawson’s experience, letting go of her grudging feelings toward her older sibling required her to be honest with herself.

“I was like, ‘I don’t wish harm upon my brother. I don’t go out of my way to be mean to him.’ So that must be forgiveness,” she says.  “That’s not forgiving. You’re still holding on to that resentment.”

Similarly, Jez Carleton told himself that he’d forgiven the adoptive father he was estranged from. But his therapist disagreed. When Mr. Carleton, who is employed as a nanny in Melbourne, Australia, heard that his father had been hospitalized with COVID-19, he had to decide whether or not to reach out. He says his father has long expressed disappointment in his adopted son’s supposed lack of achievement and success. The two men hadn’t spoken in six years. Since 1999, they’ve only had three conversations. 

“I have always felt that he wanted to return me to the adoption agency because I was ‘faulty,’” says Mr. Carleton, who is gay. “I could never meet his high expectations.”

But the coronavirus crisis hastened introspection. “Everyone has faults and I have many faults,” he says. “Especially at this time of the world, I am trying to stop judging people. And then you have to forgive them.”

Once Mr. Carleton plucked up the courage to call his father in a hospital in Sydney, he felt a calmness he hadn’t experienced during previous interactions.

“When the nurse told him that I was on the phone, I heard Dad say ‘Jeremy!’ But it was a nice, surprised exclamation,” says Mr. Carleton, who says the conversation went so well that he intends to travel to Sydney to see his father now that he’s been released from the hospital.

“I told him I loved him at the end of the conversation,” says Mr. Carleton, who says he cried with relief afterward. “I meant it.” 

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

High school seniors ask, Do I want to go into debt for college Zoom classes?

What’s the value of a college education if it’s not in person? Is the expense worth it? We look at why high school grads are reevaluating their higher education options. 

David
Khadejeh Nikouyeh/News & Record/AP
A senior smiles for a photo at cap and gown pick-up at Ragsdale High School near Greensboro, North Carolina, on April 29, 2020. One-third of high school seniors say they would rather not enroll this fall if college classes are online.

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Plainfield High senior Devon Post has not enjoyed finishing high school online. He doesn’t have Wi-Fi in his remote part of Connecticut, and using his phone to create a hotspot for his aging computer has been spotty, at best.

So the idea of paying thousands of dollars for more of the same in the fall does not appeal.

“I need to be hands-on. I don’t know if the online courses can work for me,” he says.

The first week of May has long been the traditional deadline for high school seniors to choose which college to attend. But with uncertainty surrounding the ongoing impact of COVID-19, many students can’t bring themselves to put down the deposit. The decisions they make could have huge ramifications for institutions of higher learning, some of which were already cash-strapped before the pandemic meant a financial hit worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

“I know that getting a college degree is definitely a better start and you get better pay,” says Mr. Post, who enrolled at his first choice: the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. “But if they decide to do online this fall, I don’t know if I can justify paying thousands of dollars and taking out loans.”

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4. High school seniors ask, Do I want to go into debt for college Zoom classes?

The past year was a whirlwind of activity for Samantha Beeson, a high school senior who was looking forward to end-of-year rituals before heading off to college in the fall. 

As the president of the marketing club at Johnson Ferry Christian Academy in Marietta, Georgia, a trained Italian opera singer active in theater, and a cheerleader, she was already anticipating mixed emotions as all her activities came to an end and a new stage in her life commenced.  

“I think of the senior year of high school, it’s kind of the end of being a kid,” says Ms. Beeson, who just sent her deposit to enroll in Furman University in South Carolina. “But then the coronavirus kinda took that closure from us in such an unexpected way and in such a fast amount of time.”

“And I don’t think there’s anything harder than hearing your graduation, when you’re going to walk across the stage and with all your friends, and your family is going to be there, and, you know, now that’s going to be over a Zoom call. It’s kinda disheartening,” Ms. Beeson says. “And now the beginning of college might be taken away as well.”

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

The first week of May has long been among the most busy for admissions officers, as the traditional deadline for high school seniors and others to choose which college to attend. But with uncertainty surrounding the ongoing impact of COVID-19 across the country, many students like Ms. Beeson can't bring themselves to put down the deposit. The decisions they make could have huge ramifications for institutions of higher learning, some of which were already cash-strapped before the pandemic meant a financial hit worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

“I know that getting a college degree is definitely a better start and you get better pay,” says Devon Post, a senior at Plainfield High School in rural Connecticut, who enrolled at his first choice: the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. 

“But if they decide to do online this fall, I don’t know if I can justify paying thousands of dollars and taking out loans,” says Mr. Post, an ambassador for the National Society for High School Scholars (NSHSS).

He hasn’t enjoyed finishing high school online, either. Living in a relatively remote part of Connecticut with his mom, a manager at Foxwoods Casino, he can’t get Wi-Fi. Using his cellphone as a hotspot for his aging computer has been spotty.

“I need to be hands-on. I don’t know if the online courses can work for me,” he says.

Ms. Beesen feels similarly, even though she still plans to enroll in Furman University even if they start online. 

Leila Navidi/Star Tribune/AP
Serafina Rivera, a senior at Nova Classical Academy, dances with her prom date Ben Parsonage, a junior, during their prom for two at Ms. Rivera's home in St. Paul, Minn., on May 1, 2020. With schools cancelled due to coronavirus concerns, Ms. Rivera’s mother Deborah Rathman decided to throw a prom in her own home. The couple have only had contact with each other and their own families since Minnesota's stay-at-home order began.

“The idea of doing my first semester of college online is hard for me, because it’s already so expensive,” Ms. Beeson says. “We’re not only paying for classes, we’re paying for the experience. We’re paying for the dorm life, the cafeteria life, the outdoor life, and all those things why I chose to go to Furman in the first place.” 

Across the country, about half of high school seniors and returning students say they could deal with e-learning and online classes in their colleges this fall, though they would much prefer in-person classes, according to a national survey released last week by the NSHSS. About a third of U.S. students, however, said they would rather not enroll this fall if classes meet online.

A number of colleges and universities in California and other states have already announced they plan to hold online classes this fall, while other U.S. institutions say they will reopen with in-person classes. In a survey of college officials by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, more than half said they were making plans for the possibility of putting the fall semester entirely online.

“I see a lot of families doing a huge sort of philosophical shift in their minds, asking, like, why were we going to a particular college to begin with?” says Craig Meister, an admissions consultant based in Baltimore. “Was it for the name? Was it for the prestige? Was it for the experience?”

“But I think a lot of students and families are realizing, it’s not just the five classes you are going to be taking in the fall, or the name you’ll graduate with, but the experience of being in dorms, networking, fraternities and sororities, making new friends, being independent,” continues Mr. Meister. “And if that’s all taken away from you – and so much else has seemed to be recently taken away from these students and families – is now really the time to proceed?”

Students like Mr. Post have begun to consider taking a “gap year,” and deferring their enrollment until the fall of 2021. Some are beginning to question the need to spend – or borrow – the exorbitant costs of going to college in the first place.

“I’ve never had a job, so maybe just getting an apprenticeship might be nice,” says Mr. Post. “And once I start getting work skills and ability – meaning the kinds of stuff that my future employers can see I have – maybe I need to just take a couple leap years before deciding on going to college. I’ll even have some money in the bank.”

The uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and its ongoing impact going into the fall has also left college admissions officers scrambling as many see enrollment numbers decline and requests to take a gap year rise.

“We’re definitely seeing a lot of students take advantage of the deadline flexibility that we offered,” says Adam Miller, director of admission at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, noting that a number of families want to wait before submitting a deposit.

“But there’s the possibility that when it comes down to it, and it’s July or August and students start considering their options for next year, there may not be very many attractive options,” he says. “A lot of gap year programs involve summer work, maybe some sort of academic experience, or maybe travel. And those are all pretty severely impacted as well by COVID-19. It’s not clear to me what the comparable alternatives will be for students.”

Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, has also seen a lag in enrollments so far, says Kristen Capezza, vice president of enrollment management. “We’re seeing the aftermath of those students who are trying to hold out for a level of certainty before making their decision,” she says.

“As much as hopefully we can work to resume an in-person semester, I do think there’ll be some added precautions either way,” she says. The university has been setting up classrooms to follow social distancing guidelines and starting to look at the possibility of testing students to create a bubble on campus, or resume group gatherings with temperature scans or required masks. 

“Until a vaccine becomes available, I think you’ll start to see a lot of that at campuses in the fall,” Ms. Capezza continues. “I don’t see how you can resume business as usual without some of those added precautionary measures in place.”

Still, rather than delaying the start of a college education, she says now is actually the best time to begin. “Typically when economies weaken, you’ll see education actually start to pick up because it’s the perfect time to go in and strengthen skill sets and learn and prepare yourself for when the economy gets stronger and things start to boom again,” she says.

This is one reason Ms. Beeson is planning to start Furman this fall, even if her summer orientation has already been cancelled and her college career will begin with online classes at home in Georgia. 

Despite the disappointments of the disrupted end-of-semester rituals, she has been discovering something completely new about herself, she says, as her yearslong frantic schedule has slowed to a home-bound crawl.

“It’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned, how we live in such a fast-paced world, and how important it is not always having to be busy,” Ms. Beeson says. “And just the power of being bored – so many creative ideas, so many values I’ve suddenly realized.” Among those: “Being with my family, getting to spend a lot more time with my sister, getting to know her better – especially if I’m about to move to college.”

“Don’t get me wrong, this hasn’t been easy for me,” she says. “But I definitely have reprioritized and learned a lot I probably wouldn’t have.”

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

Q&A

Pandemic parenting: Dads assess their share of care

Are fathers stepping up during the lockdown, taking on more parenting and housework duties? We asked some American dads to tell us about how their roles have shifted. 

David
Ann Hermes/Staff
Nick Townley plays with his children Malcolm and Maggie (right), as they go on a walk in their neighborhood on April 23, 2020, in Acton, Massachusetts. Mr. Townley shifted to part-time work to help with child care as his wife works full time.

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During lockdown, focus often turns to the parenting burden on women, who already spent more time on child care and housework. But fathers spend about triple the time on child care per week than they did in 1965, and more than double the amount of time on housework, according to a 2016 report by the Pew Research Center. 

How couples negotiate workloads during the pandemic “is going to say a lot about our conceptions of gender right now,” says Daniel Carlson, an associate professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah. “I think a lot of people are going to have to come face-to-face with their own and their partner’s ideas about who’s responsible for what.” 

The Monitor asked a few fathers around the United States how the coronavirus has changed their work and family life and what lessons they’re learning about divisions of labor in the home. John Griswold, a father of three from California, says he tries to help his wife make time for herself after caring for their children. 

“She has the harder job. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it,” he says. “My clients don’t scream at me when something isn’t right, at least not normally.”

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5. Pandemic parenting: Dads assess their share of care

The coronavirus pandemic has placed new stresses on home life – and how household duties are divvied up. But while much of the media emphasis has been on the extra burden being placed on women, men have been stepping up as well.

Before the pandemic, data shows women regularly spent more time on child care, housework, and the “mental load” of household management than men, even though 71.5% of women with children under age 18 participate in the labor force. Several media articles have spotlighted the intense burdens many mothers are carrying at this time. But fathers spend about triple the time on child care per week than they did in 1965, and more than double the amount of time on housework, according to a 2016 report by the Pew Research Center.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

“The vast majority of men in the U.S. want to share housework and childcare equally with their partners,” wrote Daniel Carlson, an associate professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in a recent Twitter post with tips for fathers on how to get more involved at home. “However, structural barriers like a lack of job flexibility and time at home prevent this. But this barrier has been removed for many. You are home now. Don’t let the burden of your new work/family arrangement fall just on your partner!” 

How couples negotiate workloads during the pandemic “is going to say a lot about our conceptions of gender right now,” adds Professor Carlson in a phone interview. “I think a lot of people are going to have to come face-to-face with their own and their partner’s ideas about who’s responsible for what.”

We asked a few fathers around the United States to share how the coronavirus has changed their work and family life and what lessons they’re learning about divisions of labor in the home. Their answers have been edited for length and clarity. 

John Griswold from Encinitas, California, is the father of three children, ages 7 months, 2, and 4. He works full time and his wife is a stay-at-home parent. 

Has being at home more made you think any differently about what your spouse handles at home?

She has the harder job. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. She’s juggling a million things all at once. My clients don’t scream at me when something isn’t right, at least not normally.

[My wife] puts the kids first and doesn’t naturally set aside time for herself. So my biggest job is to try and force her to do that, and sometimes I do a good job at that and sometimes I don’t. I’m trying to make sure she’s getting enough time to decompress so she can be her best self for the kids because she burns it at both ends and doesn’t complain – she loves her job, she’s wanted to be a stay-at-home mom since she was little. 

How have you divvied up things like the dishes or laundry that aren’t necessarily child care, but are often more typically in the woman’s wheelhouse? 

The “home ec” roles I’ve taken as my own is I do all the grocery shopping and I cook at night. I plan it out, I’ve taken it as mine. She knows what we don’t have in the fridge better than me. I’ve figured out for our marriage, systems really work. [Normally] at 3 p.m. every day I call or text and say, “What do you need me to pick up?” She tells me and then I try to get to the store and be home at 5 from the grocery store so we can do bedtime. Since I’m at home now, I’m making my own list, going to Costco, doing that portion for her. I’m grateful for it because it gives me a reason to get out of the house. 

Nick Townley lives in Acton, Massachusetts, with his wife and their children, ages 2 and 5. He reduced his hours to part-time work during the pandemic. His wife works full time. 

How do you and your spouse regularly divide up child care and household tasks? Has that changed at all since the pandemic?

Before coronavirus we were both responsible for deep cleans. I do regular surface cleans and the laundry, we alternate cooking, I do 4 out of 5 weeknights for cooking, and she normally does weekends and Friday. Now she’s increased her cooking because she enjoys it and wants to and can without her commute. I’m still the primary parent when we’re both home during working hours because she’s on so many calls. I’m building my day around her work routine because I can do that with my schedule. 

Data shows dads lag behind moms with handling child care and household duties. As someone who has been more involved as a stay-at-home dad, what do you see as the benefits of handling more duties around the house? 

The main driver for me was that I spent so much time away when [my daughter] was younger. I’d go away for three months at a time and [my wife] was at home full time. I was going away and didn’t want to be an absent father and [she] wanted to be working.

I really think it comes down to the personalities of people and what they enjoy and don’t enjoy. We’ve been very lucky that most of the things I don’t like, she likes doing, things she doesn’t like, like tidying, I like doing. It’s personal preferences and the economics of the situation.

[We aim for a] greater sense of teamwork and common purpose and unity, where you both feel like the other person’s contributing and you don’t feel like the other person’s slacking, which means everything’s so much smoother. 

David Bates is a father of two children, ages 2 and 4, in Dallas. He works full time and his wife works part time. 

What’s changed in your child care and household routines? 

My kids usually go to school on certain days during the week and that’s when [my wife] gets her work done, but obviously with this change the kids are at home now so that has meant that there’s definitely more of a sharing of responsibilities. What usually happens is I’ll have to be more involved in the afternoons and evenings. I’ll come in, take care of the kids, we’ll play in the yard or take a walk if it’s nice, while [my wife] works, sometimes I’ll be more involved with dinner preparations because the evening is her time to work. Often I find myself the one putting my kids to bed.

How do you normally communicate about handling child care and home duties with your spouse, and has this moment forced you to talk about it more intentionally or more often? 

It’s almost the same as what we did previously. I feel like we always had an open conversation or understanding of how to divide things up. ... I haven’t really seen much of a change, it’s almost like things are moving too rapidly that we haven’t really sat down and talked. [Instead] it’s “Look, I need to get this done, let’s figure it out as we’re going.”

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

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The Arab world binges on religious harmony

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The people of the Middle East are quite used to the many attempts to reconcile Jews and Arabs. Yet nothing has been tried on such a mass scale as a drama series being shown on one of the Arab world’s most popular TV channels during this year’s month of Ramadan.

Since the series began to air in April, it has dominated viewership ratings at a time when Arab families gather around a television in the evening.

The drama centers on a Jewish nurse living in an Arabian Gulf country in the 1940s. She and other Jews live peacefully in a village with Muslims and Christians as she lovingly brings health care to all. While the show has plenty of intrigue, it depicts interreligious harmony before the 1948 creation of modern Israel and the later rise of intolerant Islamic groups such as Al Qaeda.

The hunger for a shared humanity is clear as millions of Arabs are tuning into a TV show about people of the three Abrahamic faiths living together.

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The Arab world binges on religious harmony

The people of the Middle East are quite used to the many attempts over decades to reconcile Jews and Arabs. Yet nothing has been tried on such a mass scale as a drama series being shown on one of the Arab world’s most popular TV channels during this year’s month of Ramadan. Since the series began to air in April over the Saudi-backed MBC station, it has dominated viewership ratings at a time when Arab families gather around a television in the evening.

The drama “Um Haroun,” or “Mother of Aaron,” centers on a Jewish nurse living in an Arabian Gulf country in the 1940s. She and other Jews live peacefully in a village with Muslims and Christians as she lovingly brings health care to all. While the show has plenty of village intrigue, it depicts interreligious harmony before the 1948 creation of modern Israel and the later rise of intolerant Islamic groups such as Al Qaeda.

While the drama was filmed before the COVID-19 outbreak, its producers note its timely message: “Today, the world’s sentiment is no longer ‘us vs. them,’ but more ‘we are all in this together.’”

Its popularity among Arab viewers coincides with current trends in the region that signal a desire to overcome the sectarian divides that have driven wars, corruption, and poverty. 

Last year’s youthful protests in Iraq and Lebanon, for example, were driven by calls to end government systems in which power is divvied up by religious groups. A survey of opinion in both countries revealed nearly three-quarters of people resent the use of religion for political advantage. 

In 2018, Israel’s prime minister visited the Arab nation of Oman, while several Gulf nations have quietly warmed up ties with Israel, partly as an informal alliance against Iran. In 2019, the United Arab Emirates declared the “Year of Tolerance.” In February this year, the head of the Muslim World League visited the Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. And during the coronavirus lockdown, the region’s leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called for assistance to people of all faiths. 

These examples of coexistence, whether real or in imaginary TV shows, are wearing down animosities between faiths. Official ties between countries in the Middle East may still be strained. Violent conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Libya seem to drag on. Yet the recognition of a shared humanity is emerging. The hunger for it is clear as millions of Arabs are tuning into a fictional TV show about people of the three Abrahamic faiths living together. 

A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

Overcoming fear of the unknown

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It can seem there’s a lot we don’t know – about our health, our economic stability, what the future holds, and so on. But the realization that God’s love is knowable and His care reliable overcomes fear, bringing healing and peace – as a father experienced when his son became suddenly ill.

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1. Overcoming fear of the unknown

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Of all the fears that nag at us, fear of the unknown can seem the most terrifying. The COVID-19 pandemic is a case in point. Media reports often magnify the uncertainty many already feel. “There’s a lot we just don’t know,” experts tell us.

By contrast, God is described in the Bible as all-knowing. Psalm 139 begins: “Lord, you have examined me and you know me. You know everything I do;... You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power” (verses 1, 2, 5, Good News Translation).

Each of us has the God-given capacity to know what God knows – to perceive the one true reality of God’s spiritual creation and to know ourselves as safely tucked into this creation. There are no unknowns to God, who is infinite Mind, or to us as God’s spiritual offspring, who express this Mind.

This idea came into fresh focus for me as I read this definition of “unknown” that appears in the Glossary of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science: “That which spiritual sense alone comprehends, and which is unknown to the material senses.

“Paganism and agnosticism may define Deity as ‘the great unknowable;’ but Christian Science brings God much nearer to man, and makes Him better known as the All-in-all, forever near” (p. 596).

Here, in a few words, the author pinpoints fear as a product of not knowing God. And not knowing God as the result of letting the five senses (“the material senses”) dictate one’s view of life and health. Christian Science helps us address fear by looking deeply into the very nature of God. This “looking” involves spiritual sense, which is everyone’s God-given ability to think, see, and feel spiritually – to discern what God, Spirit, is communicating to us.

There are powerful examples of this in the Bible, especially in the life of Christ Jesus. He not only knew God intimately but also verified God’s wholly good and spiritual nature by healing people. Is it any wonder he was not only the most loving and insightful man on earth but also the most fearless?

People came to Jesus in desperate situations, but he resolved each of them quickly and peacefully. In one case, Jesus is described as “asleep on a pillow” as waves crashed into the vessel he and his disciples were in (see Mark 4:35-39). The disciples awakened him and asked why he didn’t care that they were all about to drown.

Was Jesus just a sound sleeper? Or was he so conscious of the presence of God, divine Love, that he literally wasn’t “in” the storm? He rose and said with authority, “Peace, be still,” and the waters became still.

“Peace, be still,” is what God is saying to each of us through the Christ, the divine message that’s just as present today as it was in Jesus’ time. Christ, Truth, is here to help us see the reality of what God always sees and knows. When we receive the Christ message into our hearts, a great spiritual peace sweeps over us, removing fear and opening the way for healing.

I felt this deep peace unmistakably one night when our young son became suddenly ill. What began as a mild fever quickly intensified, and I was gripped with fear in spite of my prayers. A Christian Science practitioner agreed to come right over and pray for our son. My wife and I had of course been praying, but we were so grateful for the practitioner’s support.

I was prepared to call 911 if the situation worsened, but the moment this spiritually minded woman entered our home, I felt the Christly assurance that God was holding my son safe. Within minutes, the fever dissolved and he was breathing and acting normally again. It was one of the most immediate and sacred healing experiences I have ever had.

This experience and so many others over the years confirm the healing power of knowing that the very substance of our being is created and maintained by God. And they show us that God loves and preserves us – not so much by rescuing us from evil, including disease, but by helping us see that evil is never the reality it seems to be. The Christ is here today telling us, “Do not be afraid” (Mark 5:36, NKJV) – your true identity is spiritual, upheld by the one perfect Mind that is God.

As we glimpse this, it restores calm. Helps us know what our creator knows about us: that we exist as divine Mind’s very knowing of its own perfect selfhood. And heals our fear of the unknown.

Adapted from an article published on sentinel.christianscience.com, April 30, 2020.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all the Monitor’s coronavirus coverage is free, including articles from this column. There’s also a special free section of JSH-Online.com on a healing response to the coronavirus. There is no paywall for any of this coverage.

Viewfinder

Ready for beach season?

Murad Sezer/Reuters
A woman sits at Peraia beach as Greece begins a gradual easing of the nationwide lockdown due to the spread of COVID-19, in Thessaloniki, Greece, May 5, 2020. Greece locked down early, and its stringent measures were credited with avoiding mass deaths, as in neighboring Italy. Now, with one-fifth of the economy dependent on tourism, it’s trying to save its summer season.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte and Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow for our next installment of comfort cooking: baking without flour. 

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