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In the year of the Pandemic

In the year of the Pandemic

In years past I have been grateful for the bountiful gifts of summer, and the slower pace of life that summer brings.  The season and its rhythms helped me to look inward with the approach of Elul.  This year, however, the slower tempo of life was not a choice but a sudden jolt.  Our world suddenly stopped in its tracks.   We lost Eden.  But with the loss came a certain kind of clarity.

Clarity, in turn, filled me with gratitude for Adat Shalom, a community that protects and guides me.  I’m grateful for the wisdom and care with which our rabbis, the staff and lay leaders help us to organize our lives and to find meaning in a time of crisis.   

At a personal level, daily I seek to learn to live in a changed world, to dispel the fear and isolation that I sometimes feel.  I want to make myself available to family and neighbors, not only in Washington but also in Puebla, Mexico, where I grew up and where my family lives.   My mother’s home has become an important anchor for us, and my brother and sister have thanked me for keeping it in the family after my mother’s death.  Last week a cousin of ours who is a musician moved into the house with his wife and two small children.  They used to live in Tepoztlán, a beautiful artists community near Mexico City.  When the pandemic struck, Mexico City residents who were seeking a refuge and were able to afford higher rents than the locals displaced them.  It was impossible for my cousin to find affordable housing.  I continue to support the extended families of the people who helped my mother for years, since they do not have access to social security as some people do.   In the context of Mexico’s many problems, it sometimes feels like I’m applying a band-aid to a patient who needs an operation, but to these families, it is the difference between staying in Mexico or seeking a new life in the U.S., a move that would bring its own hardships and dangers.

At the political and social level, I want to join in the joy and in the anger brought on by the Black Lives Matter movement.  I want to be part of a new and hopeful chapter in our history.  I want my voice to be heard and I want my vote to count.  I want to support the centuries-old fight for racial justice.

In terms of my relationship with the world, I now see more clearly than before that the privilege of living in this society has come at a high cost to the environment.    My ability to live and move about in two or three countries, to social distance, to eat healthy food, come with a heightened sense of responsibility, as I’m constantly reminded of the scarcity of resources, in the U.S. and globally.  

To accept responsibility in a time of historic change takes a toll on everyone who attempts to meet this challenge.  We need to have compassion towards ourselves.  I pray to be able to rise to the occasion and to be supported as I seek to help those in greater need, both near and far away.

From our ancestors we have inherited lessons in fortitude, resilience, and hope.  We must embrace hope as a political strategy, and engage with our world in tikkun olam. 


Lisa Fuentes

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