A “Little Way” for Times of Quarantine
“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”- St. Therese of Lisieux
I still can’t watch the news. I couldn’t tell you the statistics. How many dying and dead. How many waiting in hospitals, how many risking their lives every day. But I can tell you the weariness of my mother’s voice, overworked and overwhelmed trying to keep food on the table and the rent paid for too many families. I can tell you how my father’s shoulders bow under the weight of too many boats to haul in, under all the paint and motors and propellers to replace. How each of them, day after day, stifle their breath with masks and disinfectant, keep charities running and fish in the market--keep the more subtle symptoms of this pandemic at bay.
I can tell you the exact tension of the knot in my stomach when my dad coughs. When my mom opts to keep her distance.
The bigger picture, the worldwide pandemic, is lost on me right now. It’s too much. We’re living through something that will be documented as a crisis in history, and all I can think about are the small dramas of my house, the beating hearts and functioning lungs of my parents. My world begins and ends at my front door. On campus, I was surrounded by 10,000 people, but I didn’t feel accountable to much of anybody; I was comfortable being anonymous, detached. Now I’m accountable to two people, and I want to be fully present, compassionate, and involved in their lives the way I never allowed myself to be on campus.
My confirmation saint is St. Therese de Lisieux. Four years ago, I was drawn to her “Little Way” of faith, her conviction that everyday life is just as sacred as grand gestures and martyrdoms. But at sixteen (and even now) I related more to her human struggles: her oversensitivity to criticism, her perfectionism, her times of spiritual dryness and doubt. All too aware of my own failure to reach some unattainable ideal of holiness or greatness, I clung to her simple, unshakable idea that small actions and prayers are valid manifestations of love.
At Brown, it can be all too easy to get caught up in a culture of perfection and busyness. Everyone’s changing the world in one way or another, and sometimes you can lose sight of your own virtues through comparison. But now, everyone’s grand ambitions are shrinking, whether we want them to or not. We’re separated from our friends, classes, jobs, the lives we’ve worked so hard to create for ourselves. We might feel that we’ve lost our purpose or even our sense of self. But St. Therese looks our perfectionism in the eye and offers us something much greater: the love and mercy of a human Jesus who loves us despite our faults. Despite our imperfections. Despite our littleness. And she challenges each of us to see this not as time wasted away from some greater goal, but to manifest Jesus’ sacrificial love every day, in whatever ways we can.
I can’t tell you God’s plan for this. How it will end, or why it happened in the first place. The one thing I can tell you is that somewhere between the major stress of a worldwide pandemic and the minor tensions of family squabbles, there are small acts of love. And that’s enough for now.
Diane Story is an undecided freshman and sent us this post from Gloucester, MA.