Carolina Wren Singing

Photo by Ryk Naves on Unsplash

Yes there is fear.

Yes there is isolation.

Yes there is panic buying.

Yes there is sickness.

Yes there is even death.


They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise

You can hear the birds again.

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet

The sky is no longer thick with fumes

But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi

People are singing to each other

across the empty squares,

keeping their windows open

so that those who are alone

may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland

Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.

Today a young woman I know

is busy spreading fliers with her number

through the neighbourhood

So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples

are preparing to welcome

and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting

All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way

All over the world people are waking up to a new reality

To how big we really are.

To how little control we really have.

To what really matters.

To Love.

So we pray and we remember that

Yes there is fear.

But there does not have to be hate.

Yes there is isolation.

But there does not have to be loneliness.

Yes there is panic buying.

But there does not have to be meanness.

Yes there is sickness.

But there does not have to be disease of the soul

Yes there is even death.

But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.

Today, breathe.

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic

The birds are singing again

The sky is clearing,

Spring is coming,

And we are always encompassed by Love.

Open the windows of your soul

And though you may not be able

to touch across the empty square,



Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM

March 13th 2020

A Strange, Strange Time


Photo by Philippe Oursel on Unsplash

What a strange, strange time!

The only other period of my life equally weighed down with fear and uncertainty was the Cuban missile crisis, a time we all miraculously passed through without harm.  (More than fifty years later we know how truly miraculous that safe passage was.  And it wasn’t our government that kept us safe!)

I will never forget being a young English teacher standing in front of my high school class when the principal’s voice came over the sound system giving us evacuation instructions.

I’m not a particularly brave person.  I grew up with a father who was terrified of the world.  He fretted about every conceivable threat to our physical safety and, having struggled through the Great Depression, spoke often and solemnly of “when the next Depression comes.”

He has accompanied me all my adult life, whispering, warning, promising disaster.  I seem to have no way to turn off that dark voice.

Nonetheless, a pandemic never even made the list.

Which just goes to show that worrying isn’t the solution to anything.

But if worrying doesn’t help, what does?

A friend of mine, long before these fraught times, came up with the answer.  Grace and Gratitude.  Grace, the infinite gifts to be discovered in every life.  Gratitude, the deep appreciation of those gifts.

To keep the two before her, my friend found a photo of two giraffes and named them Grace and Gratitude and put them on her wall.  Liking the idea, I found a photo of two giraffes, too, and they adorn the wall right in front of my computer.

The problem, though, with putting something up on a wall that you look at every day for many hours of the day is that it doesn’t take long to quit seeing it entirely.

Until the world collapses around you.

Then you wake and see again.

So here I am at my computer looking at my giraffes, really looking at them, and remembering my friend’s wisdom that came out of a gentler time.

My life has been messy.  I have taken so many missteps.  I started out knowing so little about myself.  And it has taken such a long time to know, to accept, to love this person I am.

But through all the mess a core has held true.  I wanted to write, and I have written.  I wanted to turn my innermost self into words, into story, and I have lived by words and story.  I wanted to cast those words, those stories into the world, and it has been one of the deepest gifts of my life that the world has received them.

And what has been returned to me from that writing and from having that writing received is the gift of my own self.  I know myself better now.  I love myself better now.

And knowing and loving myself, I have more to give.

Which is what seems to give life value . . . that giving.  Whatever form it takes.  It’s easy to know your life matters when you can see your impact on others.

But sometimes even the opportunity for giving is taken away, and then what do you have?

My wise friend, the one who named her giraffes Grace and Gratitude, is a healer.  Even after leaving her profession behind, she has continued to find multiple ways to bring healing to those she touches.  And now, under the rules of this pandemic, she lives alone with little contact with this world so in need of healing.

“Is there anything I can do for you from a distance?” I asked yesterday.

“Help me figure out the purpose of my life,” she answered.

Just a small request from a healer shut off from healing.

But she knows.  She already knows.  And when she forgets, her giraffes will remind her.

We live in Grace, in the gift of breath, the gift of heartbeat, the gift of life itself.  Because all life is a gift.  Even life we do not choose to have among us like this living virus is part of a larger, sacred whole.

We live in Gratitude, because that is our reason for being here.  To know life in all its abundance, in all its pain.  To celebrate its lifeness as every cell of our bodies celebrates our existence.

And the only thing we must do to earn that celebration is to be.  Just to be.




And our purpose?  To receive Grace with Gratitude.

It is enough.

Even in these strange times!



Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

–Lynn Ungar , written on 3/11/20

The Lonely Prawn

Lonely Child

Photo by Henrikke Due on Unsplash

It never surprises me when it happens.  In fact, after nearly fifty years as a children’s writer, it usually gives me a good laugh.

What am I talking about?  The potshots “grown-up” writers love to take at anything written for the young.

I watched the film Wonder Boys the other eveningRe-watched it would be the more appropriate term, because I’m certain I had seen the film before, but so long ago that every line was new to me, albeit each arrived carrying a whiff of deja-vu.

The film, for those who haven’t seen it either once or twice, is about a novelist/professor who, after a spectacular success with his first novel, cannot finish his second.  And it’s about his brilliant and troubled—aren’t all brilliant writers also troubled?—student.

(I sometimes grow annoyed with the way writers are depicted on the screen, poor neurotic, suffering and insufferable souls.   But then I remind myself that the people behind that depiction are, themselves, writers and decide we have permission to poke fun at ourselves.)

The line that caught my attention occurred during a writers’ festival.  It’s the final gathering and those who placed a manuscript with an editor during the weekend are being congratulated.  Before we get to our brilliant but troubled student, the sale of a children’s book is announced.  The title, The Lonely Prawn.

If you’re someone out there writing for children or who actually knows children’s books, you get the joke.  But what I react to isn’t so much the amused contempt for children’s literature revealed in such a title; it’s the much deeper, darker contempt for childhood itself that lies beneath it.

Many years ago, after I’d published my second novel for young people, a journalist was sent out to interview me for our community paper.  When he arrived, it couldn’t have been more obvious that he considered the story he’d been assigned—a housewife who’d published a kiddie book—beneath him.  After a brief and annoying conversation, I handed him a copy of the novel and said, “Read it and then come back if you want to talk to me.”

He returned with a whole different set of questions, beginning with “How can you write things like that for kids?”

I think the mistake that many people make, a mistake even some who are trying to write for young readers make, is one of “othering.”  We cannot believe that children are yet human beings, that they have serious and complex inner lives and thus that serious and complex literature can serve them.

And this despite the fact that we all enter the world as infants and live long years as children and never leave the deep impact of that experience behind.  Why then do we block out both conscious memory of and respect for childhood?

Perhaps it’s because we don’t want to recall our own powerlessness, our total dependence on those who met our needs so imperfectly.

Perhaps it is also because we live in a society immersed in a profound ageism, one that denigrates both young and old, dismisses youth as not being important yet, age as being past all importance.

But then that’s another blog entirely, isn’t it?

One of my memories of being a child in the 1940’s is of standing in a circle of my mothers’ friends who were talking about me.  They discussed me as though I might be a lamp or a table, some object completely without awareness.

Don’t they know I’m a person? I thought.

They didn’t.

And then I also thought, Wouldn’t they be surprised to know what’s going on inside my head?

They would have.

More than seven decades later, the grown-ups struggle with that concept still.  That children are real, that they contain whole worlds of thoughts and feelings, that they deserve a complex and demanding literature . . . and that, believe it or not, such a literature exists.

I do hope, though, that poor lonely prawn does finally find a friend.



Be of Good Cheer


Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash

Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.


Helen Keller