By Barb Arland-Fye
Social media’s “personality” is as complicated as our own and with the commensurate good and bad traits. Today, I tapped into the goodness of social media with tweets from Pope Francis and a Facebook post that quoted the late author and artist, Flavia Weedn.
By the time this column appears, the outcome of the presidential election may still be undecided and the coronavirus pandemic will continue to keep us on guard. However, the gifts I discovered on social media provided a respite from the anxiety that scars the year 2020.
Flavia wrote, “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to a new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”
The faces of people who have moved my soul to dance, who awakened a new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom, appear in my mind’s eye. Some of them are still living, like my immediate family and extended family members and close friends. Others left this earth long ago but remain close to my heart.
Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. Often, on a sunny day, I look up at the sky and see the smiling face of my Grandma Irene Arland, a tiny woman with a big heart who once served me dinner on her special china. During the 20 years in which I had the pleasure of her presence, she demonstrated unconditional love and set the example of a grace-filled life.
These and many other people have left a footprint on my heart and I will never be the same. Women religious, bishops, priests and deacons, colleagues, readers, story subjects, professors, parishioners, and the people I met on journeys to India, Rome and France. Health care providers, people who struggled with homelessness, inmates in Iowa’s correctional facilities, my Junior Achievement students and their teacher.
Each one has shaped the person I have become; my experiences with them provide a window to view the world with greater perception and the eyes of faith. Four years ago, I made eye contact with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, one among thousands who probably did the same! He leaves a footprint on my heart with his ministry, compassion and challenge to look out for the other person.
In a tweet from his new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis said, “Kindness frees us from the cruelty that at times infects human relationships, from the anxiety that prevents us from thinking of others, from the frantic flurry of activity that forgets that others also have a right to be happy.”
That tweet speaks so clearly to this present moment and how we ought to conduct ourselves, as does this tweet from the encyclical: “Jesus challenges us to put aside all differences and, in the face of suffering, to draw near to others with no questions asked.”
The Holy Father’s observations, along with this one from Bishop Robert Barron’s daily Gospel reflection for All Saints Day, help to anchor me in this turbulent time: “When Christ is the ‘ground’ of the soul, the soul finds peace, order and beauty. Make God’s will the center of your concerns, and your proximate needs, desires and longings will tend to find their place.”
Social media can be a blessing or a curse; I choose to focus on the blessings and the planting of more footprints on my heart.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at email@example.com)