It seems that with each new day I receive more sad news from friends, family and even strangers whose hearts are breaking or already broken due to the Corona virus pandemic. Like many others, I ask myself, what may I do, in some small way, to practice what we Jews call Tikkun Olam?
Tikkun Olam is a Hebrew phrase literally meaning “to repair the world.” Jews are commanded by our creator to each day in some small way perform an act of charity, philanthropy, or other human kindness to make an effort to repair what is most certainly, even without the corona virus, an imperfect world.
My own strategies for trying to heal the many breaking hearts around me, including my own, is three fold. I use an ABC mnemonic to help me remember and focus upon one pathway that I may choose to promote healing.
First, I acknowledge that it is human and therefore normal to feel sad and even overhwelmed when I hear that thousands of people have died or are suffering. I also acknowledge that others have similar feelings now and also in generations past. Therefore, I draw comfort from the fact that I am not alone in having these feelings and that as a caring, sharing, and loving human family we may try to individually and collectively find a way forward, together.
Secondly, I remind myself that my personal belief in the goodness of humankind and the joy of life will triumph over this current evil. I remember the thousands and thousands of scientists, doctors, nurses and other care givers throughout the world who are working every day to care for the sick, to find a future cure and to develop a vaccine to prevent this virus from re – occuring. My belief also allows me to let go of my fears and concerns a little bit because I know that many others are working every day to also repair the world and they are much more skilled, experienced and talented than I am. Their collective expertise, experience and commitment gives me strength. Therefore, I believe in the greater competence of others to use facts, research, testing and ethical judgement to help lead us, as soon as possible, out of this darkness.
Thirdly, when I begin to feel somewhat helpless or even angry, I take action. My action is not just through my positive thoughts. It is also through deeds. I sit down and write a check (or transfer funds using the internet) to a charity that can provide the essential help that is needed now and in the future. I also sit down and telephone or make a video call and listen to the breaking or broken heart of friends. When I make contact with my friends, I try very hard to simply listen. I try not to advise. I often ask questions about their feelings and then remind them they may contact me any time as I want to listen.
I also look for opportunities to volunteer from my home where I am in self isolation. I am developing some video programmes for our schools regarding rituals used by different faith groups and I am also helping apply for grants for organisations in which I am a leader.
I also often write an email or even better, send an old fashioned letter or card to someone who has been harmed by this current situation through an illness or a bereavement. By committing to an action, I feel my own heart begins to slightly repair itself and I hope that my small action shall also help others as well.
I also am not naive enough to think that life is so simple that by mastering my ABC’s of trying to repair the world that I shall immediately gather new strength.
I struggle with my feelings every day. However, I am equally committed to defeating the corona virus because it is my gift to future generations to acknowledge, believe and commit right now to repairing the world, one day and one action at a time.