I’m holding a guinea pig because it all goes back to ‘The Day the Guinea Pig Talked.’ In that story, a boy and his guinea pig love each other so dearly that they’re granted permission to talk, but merely for a few seconds while the clock strikes midnight. They only have time to say: ‘I love you.’
We’re acutely aware of how alone we are, cut off from many we love. If a relative or friend is in hospital, we’re not allowed to visit. Often one has to wait for a hugely pressured doctor to make a once -a-day call to update us. If it were me or you in hospital, – some of us are more vulnerable than others – we would be deeply alone with our thoughts.
But I believe thought and prayer somehow travel through the ether, and that, as the Talmud says, ‘What comes from the heart reaches the heart’, even if we can only say our words at a distance. There’s Hasidic story that a father and son, knowing they would be separated for a long time, agreed that at certain hours they would both look at the moon and, in that manner, feel connected.
We all know the words from the beautiful 23rd Psalm: The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want. If, at certain hours, we think of that line and others think of it too, then we can know that we are connected in heart-space with those we love. Or we can say the full Psalm with its remarkable verse: ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me,’
Rabbi Chaim reminded me that the Talmud notes special moments, the changing of the guard in ancient times, when prayer is especially effective: 6.00am, 10.00am, 2.00 in the afternoon, 6.00pm, 10.00pm, and if we are awake and anxious in the night, 2.00 in the morning.
For any of us who wishes, we can say the words at those hours, whenever we can. Then, if I or you should be ill and alone, we will know that in our thoughts we’re sharing those words at the same moment, that those we love are with us and that God is with us too. Then, maybe, we’ll feel a little less alone. Here’s a link to a beautiful version of the Psalm. Print it out if you wish; have it near.
Like the boy and the guinea pig, it’s the most important thing we can say to each other: ‘I care about you, I love you, I’m with you in my heart.’