Persons, places and things: Subtle signs of hope


By Barb Arland-Fye

Fog formed a misty curtain above the Mississippi River as I walked along the shore near my house in LeClaire. Every now and then I caught a glimpse of the setting sun on this unseasonably warm March evening and at ground level grass beginning to turn green, hopeful signs of spring in the time of coronavirus.


It was nearly 60 degrees and the hint of spring lifted my spirits. As did a homeowner, walking his dogs. He smiled and greeted me as I walked by. We both expressed wonderment at the fog, which created an ethereal atmosphere on an otherwise heavy day of news about coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“I love the fog,” he said with exuberance. I agreed wholeheartedly. “It’s a great day for a walk,” I said. “It is a great day for walk,” he responded, adding, “Have a great day!”


God’s presence seemed so clear to me on that foggy walk, a reassurance in the midst of a crisis that has disrupted our world for an indefinite time. Subtle signs of hope make me aware on a daily basis that God does not abandon us.

As the crisis in our global village made its presence felt in the United States, our son Colin called my husband and me, sobbing, because he would not be able to go out for lunch in a restaurant. He thought it was a punishment rather than a precautionary measure to protect him and his care providers from the coronavirus. How do you help a person with autism — so adverse to change — when you feel the sand shifting beneath your own feet? I figured God would provide the answer, and God did, with a suggestion from a colleague to visit the National Catholic Partnership on Disabilities (

However, I received that suggestion before Colin arrived at our house, still crying. I told him to take a deep breath, hold it, and breathe out. He did exactly as instructed, exhaling into my face! In these tense times, I sensed God’s humor in that moment. The NCPD website refers families of individuals with autism to the Autism Society of America’s website, which offers a packet of strategies to support children and young adults with autism. I’ve known about the deep breathing exercise as a coping strategy, but I failed to execute it a way that helped Colin. Lesson learned.

Colin’s tears have dried. He has become almost encyclopedic about the coronavirus and delights in being able to have a take-out lunch on Saturdays. After attending a short prayer service with five others at our parish on Saturday night because Mass has been suspended, he said happily, “I really liked that service!” The day program he attends has also been suspended, so now Colin spends his days with his dad, and loves it!

Our younger son, Patrick, continues to work full-time, grateful for that blessing as some other small businesses have had to shut down. He moved into an apartment just a month and a half before the coronavirus crisis ramped up in the U.S. Patrick worries about what the future holds, but is trusting in God to see him through it.

As we conclude the fourth week of Lent, I reflect on this Gospel reading from Evening Prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. “We beg you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you; on a day of salvation, I have helped you.’ Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation! … (2 Cor. 6:1-4a) Another sign, not so subtle, of God’s hope!

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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