From the desk of John Zavodny, President
Every Groundhog Day I think about karma. I used to teach a class called “Eastern Thought for Western People.” It was pretty much what it sounds like. The version of karma that made the most sense to my students (and me) was a lot like the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. In the film, Bill is trapped repeating the same day—Groundhog Day—until he learns whatever it is he was supposed to learn.
The lesson his character eventually grasps seems to be something like “Don’t be selfish.” He was really selfish at the beginning of the film. Along the way he uses his knowledge of what will happen to manipulate circumstances and he often ends up pretty miserable. But he also learns to make ice sculptures and play the piano. That was nice. When he grows out of his selfishness, he is released from the Groundhog Day trap. Oh, I should have said “spoiler alert” for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie. I haven’t seen it in a long time, but I bet it holds up.
So, one version of karma—the version that doesn’t have anything to do with reincarnation—is that we keep repeating the same mistakes over and over until we learn our lesson. Then we stop the cycle of negative behavior and a better future is unlocked.
I feel a little like our current situation with Covid-19 is like this version of karma: we’re going to have to keep living in this repetitive trap until we learn our lessons and escape. What’s the lesson? Well, if I knew that I’d be on the radio like Dr. Nirav Shah instead of on the Covid wheel with everyone else. I would guess the lesson is some combination of compassion, trusting people and institutions who deserve our trust, and a whole lot of selflessness. Also, play more music. A lot like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
At the Maine Seacoast Mission, we are on the Covid wheel with everyone else. Just as one afterschool program shuts down, we hire a new site coordinator and reopen another one. Food comes into our food pantry and goes out to those who need it. We plan an island Christmas potluck only to cancel because infection rates get too high. Then we adjust and plan a different event. We vaccinate and boost whomever we can. We Zoom and Zoom and Zoom. Now is the hard part. Sticking with it over time. And the Mission is built for this. Having served isolated communities in Maine since 1905, it’s not even our first pandemic.
Until we all learn whatever it is we need to learn from the pandemic and get off the Covid wheel together, the Mission will be there. It was easier to stay focused in the beginning of the pandemic. Things were scary, but they were also different and interesting. Two years into it and the relentlessness of the whole thing is obviously wearing. And yet the Mission is here for our communities on the outer islands and in Downeast coastal Maine. And we will be here, as we have been here since forever. Well, 1905. Learning together with our communities so that we can be a little kinder, a little smarter, a little more resilient, and a little more open the next time we have lessons to learn.