Our standard greeting in the U.S. goes something like, “Hi. How’re you doing?” with an expected reply of “Great,” “Fine” or “I’m okay.” Most of the time, we don’t go deeper than the surface check in, especially if there’s an affirmative answer. The truth is almost always more complicated than, “I’m okay.”
We’re not in an “okay” kind of time. Between the increasing threats of the climate crisis, the gaslighting going on in our political sphere, the widening wealth gap, the economic, spiritual and moral injuries of racism, gun violence, the opioid epidemic, a failing system of health care, a devastating rise of loneliness and isolation, the impacts of all the “isms” based on hatred and lack of compassion, and the list goes on…our larger social sphere is not okay.
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When we add in the personal aches—friends, family and ourselves contending with the individual impacts of conditions described above plus illnesses, griefs, and losses in other areas of life, we are not okay. Certainly, we are grateful for moments of surpassing grace, generosity, love and laughter. We cherish, we cling to the blessings of friendship, nature, and family and we are sustained by these gifts, but the weight of the world having become increasingly divided, fearful and unloving creates a spiritual sickness that taints us all.
We are not okay, and the first step to becoming spiritually well is to admit that truth. Despite the expectations of basic social greetings, it’s okay to be not okay. In fact, for the preservation of our planet, our communities and our families, it’s necessary to claim that we are not okay.
We need a good injection of truth-telling. We require a therapeutic regimen of activated compassion. We need a debriding of the privilege that prevents us from seeing systemic racism, an emetic for hatred, a tonic for despair, a prescription for permission to transmute suffering into art and music no matter our perceived level of talent. We need to tap into whatever source of Love and Hope we can find, in community, to raise hands, hearts and voices to overcome this darkness.
We are not okay, but with the effort to become transformed by truth, humility and love, we can be better.
Rev. Dr. Jennifer Yocum is the Senior Pastor at UCC Missoula. She sings with the Missoula Community Chorus Women’s Ensemble, makes art and music with more enthusiasm than talent, and looks forward to what new blessings will emerge, especially come Spring when the trout rise. You can see more at uccmissoula.org.