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Compassion and Justice

July 9, 2020
Categories: Our Community

By Betsy Hay, vice president of Wellness & Community Based Services

We are in week 17 of COVID living.  March 12 was our first VMRC COVID Response Team meeting. On that day in the United States, there were 3,800 people who tested positive and there had been 38 deaths.  Today, the United States stands at over 3 million cases and over 133,000 deaths. 

And it has now been six weeks since George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis.  On May 25, Mr. Floyd was known and loved by his family, friends and coworkers, and yet today his name reverberates around the world with a cacophony of anger, determination, hurt and hope.

In many ways it has been hard to breathe in these times.  The coronavirus literally attacks the lungs and takes one’s breath away.  And, Mr. Floyd’s death reminds us of the centuries that black Americans have been so oppressed as a people, that they too could not breathe.

The stories of creation in Genesis tell us how God decided to create humankind in God’s image, a living being.  In Genesis 2:7 it says “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” 

Perhaps that’s why it has been hard to breathe these past weeks.  It’s the very breath of humankind given by the Creator, that somehow seems threatened. 

One of the devotion tools that I use at home in my quiet time is the book of liturgy and prayers of the Reformed Jewish tradition.  The prayers are reflections on Old Testament passages and are beautifully written. 

This short reflection is based on Genesis 2:7. Listen especially for the word “thankful.”

My soul, my breath, came to me pure,

Drawn from the reservoir of the Holy.

All the time it remains within me,

I am thankful for its thirst

for compassion and justice.

Let my eyes behold the beauty of all creatures;

Let my hands know the privilege of righteous deeds.


This suggests that we are to be thankful for our breath not because it gives us life, but because it makes us thirsty. Thirsty for what?  Compassion and Justice. 

Isn’t that ironic!  Aren’t those the two things that the past 17 weeks have been calling us to live out - compassion for our residents, our employees, our families and our communities that they may be safely cared for during the pandemic. 

And justice for all those persons marginalized, by at best, our indifference, and at worst, by our bigotry and violence.

Suddenly, I don’t feel like it is that hard to breathe anymore.  The breath of humankind doesn’t feel as threatened.  Instead, the simple act of breathing is empowering.  It invites us to be thirsty for compassion and justice.  It invites us to be the living image of God in the world.  And as disciples of Jesus Christ, we lean on his words and actions to teach us the way.



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- Harley Showalter