When I scheduled our first Tuesday Toasts, it was almost an after-thought. We had already scheduled some time for intentional gratitude during our Sunday Toasts, but I recognized that time of prayer, where we could lift our grief and concerns, would be needed and meaningful for many of us - especially during a pandemic. I scrambled to put something together.
I didn’t properly advertise on social media.
I didn’t personally invite people to join our Zoom.
Let’s be honest - I didn’t put in all that much effort.
So it came as no surprise that when eight o’clock on Tuesday rolled around, it was just me…. and my mom.
We chatted a while and waited for more people to join us. Eventually before we got down to the formal toasts, she invited my brother to join us.
This was a pleasant surprise.
I hadn’t imagined my brother would be interested in participating. First of all, the COVID-19 pandemic has made him particularly grumpy. He continues to work part-time, exposing himself and my mom (who he lives with) to the outside world of germs and uncertainty. All of his favorite places and hobbies have been shut down. And his life, like so many of our lives, has changed drastically. On top of all that...
My brother has autism. Empathy is not his strong suit.
So when he expressed interest in joining our “Prayers of the People,” I was surprised.
Pleased. But surprised.
We proceeded through the predetermined ritual. We would take time to lift prayers in three different categories: Our community and world, our loved ones, and ourselves. We would lift up our own personal prayers for each of these groups and toast after each prayer. My mom and I decided we would go first, and if my brother wanted to chime in, all the better.
I prayed for those who are alone during this time – those who are alone due to our current circumstances and those whose loneliness is only amplified by this pandemic. – that they would have peace in knowing that God is always with them, knowledge that there are resources and people who are willing to connect, and strength to reach out.
My mom prayed for our world leaders – that they may have knowledge to make informed decisions, and compassion to do what’s best for their people.
And then my brother, without hesitating, said an eloquent and beautiful prayer for our healthcare workers, with tears welling up in his eyes – That they would stay safe, know that we are grateful for all of their hard work, and be equipped to fight this pandemic and find a cure.
This…. was the biggest surprise.
It’s not that my brother is uncaring or selfish. His neurodevelopment just makes it difficult to relate to others. But in this moment, on this day, he had the words. He had the words and he felt the feelings.
And my mom cried.
And a little piece of us moved toward a place of healing.
We continued as we lifted our prayers for our loved ones and ourselves. Each time, my brother chimed in confidently with his prayers and concerns.
It took a pandemic to see the care and concern that is sometimes buried within my brother. Part of me feels embarrassed and ashamed that I underestimated him. A greater part of me is eternally grateful for what he gave me in that moment – the reminder that our human connection is bigger than our circumstance.
In this time of uncertainty and anxiety and grief, I pray for the people - that they may remember that we are not confined by our earthly circumstances, and instead are connected by the divine. We are connected by our love and empathy for one another. And nothing can take that away.
By Amanda Kemery: Founder of The Junction