Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“Stay healthy!” is what they say in Germany these days as a farewell gift. “Stay healthy” is what my colleagues and friends write. A new “Corona-time-phrase” has been created. What do people in Africa, Asia, South and North America, Australia say to each other?
I’m irritated by this phrase, which in Germany is currently so often used at the end of a conversation.
The active verb form – a form of command – reveals something profound: namely that we pretend that we can shape our health. As if a person had the power to determine whether the Covid-19 virus makes him or her ill or not. As if health is something that belongs to society because illness disturbs and threatens.
There is no doubt that behavior contributes to the spread of pathogens. But ultimately, health remains unavailable to us, it is a gift. “Stay healthy” ignores this unavailability. Is there a longing for health behind it or an ignorance of the economized world of the fact that our life is not only characterized by self-determination but also by fragility?
Ignorance of the fragility of life shines through in the well-intentioned wishes to others who use this strange form of command. Cause linguistically, it is a command: “Stay healthy!” Bizarre…
I suspect: We would meet each other more honestly, all the fears and worries that move many of us, would become more just if our greetings to others were formulated more like a blessing:
“May you stay healthy! I hope you stay healthy!”
Because in the end, we feel just now that our existence, our ever-unique person, is a miracle:
Fragile and yet surrounded by God,
thrown into the flow of time and yet washed to its destination,
longing for more life and that is exactly why so quickly fearfully ruthless.
“I hope you stay healthy,” I always replied. “And if not, then still protected,” I think. Because health itself is not life. It simplifies it. But it is not its essence.
It is sweet and seductive like a ripe, peeled mango or a summer apricot. But it remains perishable, fragile, and ultimately unavailable. It enables us to act self-effectively and to move many things. It enables us to experience the joy of meeting others. But it remains a special gift for some years of our lives. Then we must learn to welcome each new day with gratitude and hope, even with less health and traces of fragility in us. Just like the singing birds in the morning.
Rev. Dr. Birgit Sendler-Koschel
Head of Education Department
Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland
Thank you Dr Birgit for this message of hope. I wish you all stay healthy in this COVID 19 pandemic period.
Thank you for sharing the letter of hope.
May God bless you.