Chaplain's Corner: Remember what's really important

I’ll admit it. I have been afraid. I have read about hotspots all across the country, particularly in New York, and I am bracing myself for what comes next. The numbers of those who have tested positive are going up; the numbers of deaths are going up. I see behind every number a person. 
I have also been learning about the economic uncertainties. Too many businesses lack the reserves to handle this financial shock. For families, if one or more breadwinner becomes unemployed, they lack the savings to continue to put food on the table and pay bills. 
How will all of this affect us here in the Greater Portland Area and throughout Oregon? We have too many questions about our loss of stability, and too few answers. 
Upon reflection, being afraid is a natural response. 
In a previous career, I was an editor of a Jewish newspaper. A sense of instability and unpredictability was hardwired into the process: The events of the day could change in a heartbeat, and whatever we had planned would change. That being said, there were clear deadlines. The staff knew that at the end of every Wednesday, the paper was complete, and we could briefly rest and regroup for the next issue. 
Now there are no clear deadlines. We don’t know when questions will be answered, when instability will become more stable or when fears will be resolved.  
So how can we respond? 
I have 15-year-old fraternal twins. During these weeks of “stay at home,” we have been spending plenty of time together in our apartment. Like any family, we are masters at pushing each other’s buttons. But I have noticed subtle changes. Family dinners have a little more humor. We have been getting along better than expected. I have heard and shared more laughter. 
Without even talking about it, I believe that the three of us, in our own ways, have been recalibrating what is important and what can be pushed on the back burner. This has made all the difference. It has lessened my fears. 
In the coming days of uncertainty and unpredictability, whether we are single, part of a couple or part of a family, let us purposely recalibrate our priorities. Every day find something to be grateful for; refuse to push a loved one’s buttons; diffuse a conflict rather than adding fuel; text a friend out of the blue; give someone our undivided attention.  
We will discover that simple positive decisions can have amplified constructive results, and we will be a little less afraid. 
As the Community Chaplain for the Greater Portland Jewish community, Rabbi Barry Cohen  serves as a resource for all Jews in our community. He can be reached at 503-892-7401 or


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