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white ceramic mug with black liquid on brown wooden coasterIt’s important to get the latest information about COVID-19, but consuming too much negative news can have a detrimental effect on the psyche. Take a break from that continuous flow of “breaking news” and put your mind on good things.

Think about the people in the world who are doing what they can to help frontline workers, right where they are, like the 99-year-old British veteran who walked 100 laps for charity in his own backyard and raised over £500,000.

Or the teacher who walks five miles every day to deliver lunch to his students in need.

One silver lining of the quarantine is the fact that people are realizing that a home is always better with a pet, and now dog and cat adoptions have increased exponentially. Some shelters, like the Chicago Animal Care and Shelter, are reporting that every shelter pet has found a home.

It’s also encouraging that people are reading books again and getting interested in history, like the fact that in 1847, the Choctaw nation donated money to Ireland during the Great famine. Now, some Irish people are sending relief to Native Americans affected by COVID-19 as an homage to that long-ago act of compassion.

It’s also important to remember how to laugh in these heavy times. For an instant mood-lifter, do a Google search, typing in “Do a Barrel Roll” and watch what happens. Now type in the word, “Askew”. Feel like a quick retro game on your computer? Type in “Play Atari Breakout”

So when you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the daily news coverage of the pandemic, take care of yourself and step away from it. Find a way to lift your spirits and center your soul again.

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

This week, I found myself using this phrase more than once as I read the headlines:

Why are they like that?

For example, reading about “PharmaBro” Martin Shkreli, I found out that his idol is Donald Trump. In pictures, they seem to be doing the same smug smile.

There’s one news article that perplexed me as I wondered why people do what they do – the one about the eighty-year-old woman who delayed a flight for five hours because she threw pennies into the plane’s engine for luck. Headlines characterized her in various ways, “Elderly Passenger,” “Chinese Woman,” “Buddhist Senior.”

She didn’t do this because she’s a senior. It’s not because she’s a woman. Or Asian. Or a Buddhist.

It’s because someone told her that this was “a thing” and she believed it.

Everything we believe is information that came to us through someone in whom we have faith. Parents, teachers, siblings, friends. Pastors, priests, gurus. Nowadays, the internet.

I know people who play their “lucky numbers” in the lottery every day. A man I know hit the “bonus” on the daily lottery number one day and won $500. He was so excited. But. He’s spent five dollars A DAY on those tickets for the last twenty years. He still hasn’t broken even. Actually, if he’d put those five dollars into a jar, he’d have had a nice little nest egg by now.

Actors won’t say the name of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, instead referring to it as “The Scottish Play” because saying its name inside the theater is bad luck. (Just to be on the safe side, I’m not going to write it either! You can Google it. 🙂 Okay, it rhymes with Quack-Breath.)

We do things like this so that good luck will turn our way, or so that, at the very least, bad luck stays away from us.

If I could give advice to the woman who threw pennies into the plane’s engine for luck, it would be this: Keep the change. You’re better off flying on a wing and a prayer!

How I love our Pope! Did anyone expect such a firebrand? He stands with the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized. He stands with our Mother Earth. And this week, he made a pronouncement that’s sure to send conservatives into a lather: He said, essentially, that it is better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic.

What’s a hypocritical Catholic? Let’s speculate. Perhaps it is a person who claims to follow Christ but does not welcome him in the form of immigrants. Perhaps it is a person who vows to respect all life, but doesn’t believe in providing help to those in need or protecting our planet from those who seek to plunder it for profit. Heck, maybe it’s me — I’m far from perfect. Whoever or whatever the hypocritical Catholic is, the Pope’s words are a challenge to us: Put your money where your mouth is. If you talk the talk, you better walk the walk. If you want to truly follow Christ, you better leave your ivory tower or diamond-encrusted cage and get down in the dirt with the least of God’s children.

I know several atheists. They are good people. They do good not because they believe in a theological or religious system, but because doing good makes sense to them. Because they want the world to be a better place. Even the most embittered atheists have to make moral choices. That they would make positive ones, without any spiritual model to back them up, is nothing short of wonderful.

And yet, supposedly Christian and Catholic people make bad choices all the time. I can think of several Catholics in government positions who think cutting health care, Medicare and assistance to the poor is a sound fiscal and moral idea. Sure, our country was founded on the separation of church and state. But if being a Christian Catholic is who you are at your core, it ought to drive everything you do, right?

Jesus was known for calling people out on uncomfortable realities. It seems Pope Francis is walking in his footsteps. That’s a very good thing.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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