The Art of Distraction

I am distracted of late.

Distracted by not being at the office and confusing working from home with vacation, with a list of chores that never seems to get finished.

Distracted by children who have not been anywhere and want to go somewhere. One who is out of school (today is her first day of no school) and who announced her boredom to the world this morning. I offered to share the list of chores, but that was a nonstarter.

Distracted by the sheer volume of work on my plate. I love my job but sometimes I can feel the walls closing in on me. So much to do, so much we don’t know, so many people wanting answers.

Distracted by the unknown, the intensity of wanting to be finished with the pandemic, the virus, the masks that make me hot, and the lack of human interaction outside this domestic church.

Distracted by the cacophony of sounds in my head and around the house – the arguing, the laughing, the Alexa, the fan, the door chimes, the sounds of computers and television and keyboards and timers and endless emails and Zoom calls.

Distracted by the news of more protests and trying to see through lenses I can never wear. Trying to marry compassion and understanding with justice and order and wondering how to support a cause that is foreign to me as a white, middle class man who has never suffered because of his race and yet fully comprehending the privilege this brings.

So I turn to today’s readings. Matthew offers Jesus’ take on the constitution of our faith, the foundational principles of who we are as followers of Christ and who we ought to be with each other.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.
Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

I am not sure these words bring me the complete comfort I seek, but they help. They promise solace for the suffering – but with the assumption that someone hears their cry and addresses their pain. They promise mercy and compassion and justice and fairness and happiness and more. But these are not obtuse promises; these promises are rooted in a relationship that begins with everyone being part of one body.

Therein lies the problem, I think. One body. Do we grasp that? Do we honor that? Do we accept that? Do we live by that?

Do we really understand that no race is better, no color more superior, no person is more deserving of love than any other? Do we accept that there can be space in our togetherness, that we need not agree on politics or religion or which channel gives the best coverage? Can we first simply accept that we are all part of one body in this crazy upside down planet we call home?

Perhaps when we truly grasp that we are one body, we will understand how our lives can be a blessing to the merciful, the peacemakers, and those who long to be called children of God.

Perhaps when black lives matter, all life will matter.

Or are we too distracted by the noise that surrounds us?


This originally appeared on Patrick Donovan’s personal blog, Five Minutes on Monday.