The Power of Hope

Our worst enemy in life is “fear”. It paralyzes our emotions and inhibits our actions. It causes us to focus only on ourselves, and our safety. Everyone faces this emotion, as it is always present inside us, waiting to grab our spirits and lead down the path of “woe is me”. At times, it even feels as though we are drowning as bad news incessantly bombards us. And all we want is a for someone, anyone, to through us a life preserver.

That life preserver being, a word of hope! There are days when I’d like to curl up in a ball, not so much due to todays’s virus, but the uncertainty of life when this is over. And it is only by grace through faith that I find the ability to put one foot in front of there other and carry on — slowly — hesitantly —but nonetheless ...forward. Reading again and again the words of the Apostle Paul:

“So we do not giving up. How could we! Even though it looks like things are falling apart, inside us, God is making new life. In fact, not a day goes by without God’s unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the good times, yet to come. There’s more occurring than meets the eye and what we see today, will be gone tomorrow. And (tomorrow will be better.) 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So, stand tall! Be brave! Keep the Faith! This too shall pass, until then, cling to the word of HOPE and together we will step into a Brave New World. Read the story below and I hope you will find hope in it as I did.

Rev. Dr. Keith Haemmelmann

AS AN EMERGENCY medicine doctor at a busy hospital in Boston, I'm just one of countless workers around the globe on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. And even though I'm trained to respond to a crisis, I'm not immune to the universal fear that has woven us together.

Given that we still lack critical testing capability, every patient may be a source of the virus – no matter their complaint – and I may be shedding the virus without symptoms. Before this crisis, I would dispose of my mask and glasses after seeing a patient. With shortages, I am now forced to wear one set my entire shift. Each time I open a drawer to add a gown and gloves to my protective armor, I wonder what will happen when that drawer is empty. As more colleagues test positive, what happens when there is no one left to work, or my own thermometer alarms with a fever? And as more patients require ventilators to support their breathing, how will we decide who gets one when only a few remain? While there is much to fear, my swirling mind re-centers before I enter each exam room, as I remember my purpose as a Christian, a doctor and a member of our society. All three of these roles call me to provide loving service and comfort to others, and this purpose overcomes my fear.

Recently, I treated a homeless woman who had a fever and cough. While her COVID-19 test was still pending, her chest imaging was concerning. As I shared the findings, my protective glasses kept fogging with every breath. Her eyes also began to fog – but with tears – as the gravity of the discussion began to register. "Am I going to have to be in a hospital room by myself?" she asked, as she began to sob quietly. Her first question was not about possible treatments or the odds of her survival, but the fear of being separated from her community.

Another patient was a frail middle-aged woman who had fever and shortness of breath. She was a transplant patient receiving treatment for cancer – both conditions that placed her at very high risk for having life-threatening complications from COVID-19. "My husband made me come in," she said, as her gaze drifted to the empty chair in the room. He would be sitting there if visitors were still allowed, and a new rule barring them almost kept her at home despite her worsening condition.

I have broken down in tears at various points, especially as I grapple with the weight of the shared fear and isolation of my patients. Yet this underscores why it has never been more critical to respond with selfless, loving service. The uncharted – but essential – "social distancing" efforts in place have only further exposed that communities have been fracturing and that loneliness has been spreading like a cancer.

The fabric of our country is a colorful tapestry that has frayed as we've let our differences drive us apart, instead of being bound together by the things we share. I believe good can be found in all things, and perhaps an unanticipated benefit of the current extreme circumstances is being able to see ourselves more clearly.] Humans were created to connect with one another. Some of my most powerful moments as a doctor haven't involved a flashy procedure or a cutting-edge medication. Instead, they've been soft-spoken exchanges where I comfort and connect with someone in their time of need. Our differences evaporate as we are bonded by what we share.

My Christian faith, as with other faith traditions, has a foundational concept of "do unto others as you would want done unto you." The fundamental call for Christians is to model Christ, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Thus, we are called not to respond to fear with paralyzing anxiety or dismissive apathy, but instead with faith, loving service and hope. The irony is that we are at the most globally connected time in human history. I am inspired by viral stories of people halfway around the world encouraging their own health care workers from their windows and balconies, and simultaneously by the bravery of my colleagues at my side. I crave stories celebrating love, and rejoice when they rise above the chaotic noise. The reality is that we each have the power to create these moments – both in our communities and in our homes. As the hectic pace of everyone's life has ground to a halt, there is suddenly time to recognize which connections matter most.

My experience has taught me that the light shines brightest in the darkness, and I believe we can regain our footing and create a better world from this tragedy. My emergency department is a microcosm of our society; we are a diverse set of individuals who are continually brought together by crisis to serve those in need. We each have our equal, vital roles, whether it's the service workers who expertly clean the rooms or the radiology technicians who create images of the unseen. A patient's life is saved only through our collective, harmonized efforts. We each determine how we will respond to the fear and isolation that permeate this time, and I am choosing not to succumb to paralyzing anxiety or dismissive apathy. Instead, I'm approaching each day ready to serve my community through love and hope.

Dr. Renee Salas, Boston, Massachusetts U.S.A Today