Sympathy for the Hoarders

My wife, Kim, and I ventured out carefully yesterday to resupply. We needed food, and some other necessaries of life, and we hoped to find just enough to meet our needs for a couple of weeks. Alas, a particular aisle in the grocery store was, once again, empty. We asked one of the intrepid store employees about it, and he shared that—yes—hoarding continued. They were trying to limit each family to one package, but told us of stopping several couples who split up upon entering the store to grab at least two.

I find hoarding to be very difficult to deal with, intellectually and emotionally. My initial interpretations leads me to accusations of selfishness, a “Lord of the Flies” of toilet paper scenario runs through my head. But, I am a wellbeing researcher: I know the kinds of wise wellbeing and spiritual practices I need to use to deal better with this situation. I am practicing them, and they are working, one small step at a time. I share here my three-step wellbeing practice to recenter myself, and generate even a dropper-full of compassion for these people.

First, I read a favorite, peaceful poem. Wendell Berry’s “The Peace of Wild Things,” Rumi’s “The Guest House,” Joy Harjo’s “For Calling the Human Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet” are regular reads these days. Akin to Lectio Divina, I let the words settle, notice the phrases that sparkle, the ones that ease my mind and enrich my heart.

Second, I try to imagine other, better motivations for hoarding: anxiety, fear, of course. The mad search for something, anything over which you can have even a little control. The gut-wrenching need to save your children from this unknowable danger. I sit with these needs, trying to imagine the deep goodwill that runs through these people, hoping and praying that goodwill begins to rise to the surface.

Third, I sit with my own brokenness, and recognize that I, too, have my uglier ways of dealing with these challenging times. And, I see my judgement of these people as one of those.

Last, I offer a collect, following Pádraig Ò Tauma’s wonderful guide:

The idea is that you’re collecting your intention and arranging them. In this form, you’re only allowed to ask one thing. And I think the form of collect is, in the English-language written tradition, as robust as sonnet, because it’s really clear. There’s five steps to it. They don’t have to follow a particular pentameter or any kind of rhythm, but they follow a progress. You name the God that you’re speaking to; and then, you say something more — a little bit like some character development. Then you name your request. And then, you give a reason for your request, which folds back into the top. Then you finish with a little bird of praise.

It makes you ask, what do I want? One thing — and how do I wrap that into a form that holds it, that reveals something back to me, rather than just a list of demands? Not that you have to pray like this. Half the time, prayer is: “Oh, God…” or something without any words, the deep groans of our experience. 

My intentions are to show compassion to all people, even those who are struggling in cumbersome ways  to deal with this challenging time (notice the “h” word I am trying to no longer use).

You might try these three wise wellbeing practices when you feel frustrated, angry, anxious…or for any other reason that feels right and good to you.

Heartfelt hopes to all of you that your needs, your real needs, are being met. 

All of us at the WorkWell/Flourishing in Ministry team are thinking of how we can help. Download our free, IOS app at the Apple Store. The Android version will be out soon. Please return here in the days ahead to find some wellbeing practices on this website.