Paul’s Letter to Titus contains a passage with advice that is fitting to our present time, the days after a presidential election that showed we, the people, not always at our best. Now is the time for reconciliation and building, not destroying, relationships. Paul advises Titus, who was developing the church on the island of Crete, to remind the Cretans “to be open to every good enterprise. They are to slander no one, to be peaceable, considerate, exercising all graciousness toward everyone. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another.”
Paul says that God’s kindness and generous love appeared “not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy.…” God “saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal of the holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:1-7).
This week’s issue of The Catholic Messenger went to press on Election Day. In the weeks leading up to this acrimonious election, various interest groups strategized in their own silos about how to deal with the aftermath. Prayer? Peaceful protests? Violent protests? Would armed guards take up positions outside businesses and government offices?
Fueling our anxiety is the coronavirus pandemic that leaves us suspended in uncertainty. We ought to lean into God, our faith community, and one another, to help us expel the life-sapping emotions that cause us to look out for ourselves first and erodes our country’s well-being.
“We have election stress on top of pandemic stress, which includes caregiver stress, economic stress and isolation. In addition, many people who belong to one or more marginalized groups in our country are genuinely concerned about their basic human rights and safety,” said diocesan volunteer Glenn Leach in an email. He shared suggestions from a variety of sources on ways to help. Before acting on the following suggestions, please begin with prayer — daily and often.
Among the suggestions:
• Gather and share important mental health resources. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800) 273-8255 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org. In Iowa, call Your Life Iowa Statewide Crisis Line at (855) 581-8111 or text (855) 895-8398 or visit the website at yourlifeiowa.org. The crisis line provides information and referral and can connect the caller to a counseling agency near that individual’s area.
• Publicize the above resources on social media and in your parish’s bulletins and newsletters throughout the next month.
• Do not post jokes or statements about drinking alcohol or consuming substances to cope with the election’s aftermath. Gently encourage friends to remove posts like this if you see them. Over-consuming alcohol and other substances will exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression. The potential for overdose is real.
• Encourage patience and calm related to the election. It will likely take more time than usual to count and certify ballots, especially with higher than usual turnouts and pandemic precautions. Encourage people to take any early news reports “with a grain of salt.” Repeat these messages of patience and calm routinely throughout the ballot-counting process.
• Tell your friends, family, neighbors, coworkers and fellow parishioners that you love them no matter what happens, that you are there for them, that they are not alone. Assure them of your help if they feel afraid, upset, lonely, hurting. Be willing to advocate for and to accompany them.
• Make a list of people you know who may have a particularly hard time following the election. Check in on them.
• Practice self-care. What do you need to cope safely through these next few weeks? Prepare those things. Consider taking extra time off when possible. Share the load of caregiving among your congregation.
Here are two more suggestions: 1) Read Lindsay Steele’s story in this week’s edition that offers insights and guidance for what lies ahead. 2) Visit the Braver Angels website (braverangels.org) for ideas on how to keep the peace. The Franciscan Peace Center in Clinton is involved in Braver Angels and will release a pledge that people can sign about keeping the peace. Those who sign up for suggestions will receive five suggestions each week via email “‘to keep the peace,’” said Lori Freudenberg of the Franciscan Peace Center. That initiative will continue until the week of Christmas. Contact the Franciscan Peace Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are beneficiaries of God’s kindness and generous love. Let us share that gift “so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor