Dearest neighbors and friends,

There is a different kind of death taking place in our community that runs parallel to COVID-19.

What I want you to know is you are not alone even though it might feel like you are. The range of emotions you feel within yourself from your own fears, uncertainties, disappointments, and loneliness is difficult enough, but you also carry the fears, uncertainties, disappointments, and loneliness of those you know and love who live separate from you. Empathy is a powerful connector, and adhesive bond from one person to another, one of the most important emotions to healthy relationships. 

Empathy creates community but might also make you feel weighed down and burdened because of the separation we must experience.

Living in Humboldt County provides us with a small town feel where most of us can’t go to Costco without running into our neighbors and friends, bumping elbows around the cheese samples. Many of us shop local, choosing to buy cupcakes, running shoes, pizza, coffee, and books from local shops owned and run by our friends and neighbors. We attend classes at the gym or wake up to a sun salute at the yoga studio. We know who we’re buying from, who we are supporting, and where our money goes. We know the employees who stock the shelves, bus the tables, lead us into downward facing dog, color our hair, bring us extra ranch for our fries, and ring us up. 

Empathy for many of us isn’t necessarily for the people we read about on the news. In our bodies we are housing the effects of our neighbors and friends out of work, wondering where their next paycheck will be coming from, and fearful their small business won’t survive this. These are burdens beyond the fears you feel about your own health and the health of those you love. These burdens run deeper than the inconvenience of you having to find a different hair salon or coffee shop to go to. These burdens are because you care for and love your neighbors. 

These burdens are a sign of love.

But we cannot hold our burdens by ourselves. We are not meant to hold our burdens by ourselves. 

There’s a verse in the Bible where the writer invites the reader to lay all your burdens onto God because God cares for you. There’s something radically freeing when you imagine yourself placing your anxiety, burden, pain, and suffering into the hands of Divine Love, prayerfully knowing you’re not alone. It might be scary. It will take trust and bravery, but I pray you will humbly try.

Neighbors and friends, I want you to know you are loved. It might feel like a death is taking place, but I believe a new kind of life is breaking forth. I’ve seen this life in the many good people in Humboldt that are here for each other, come what may. And I’ve felt this life in the deepest of Divine Love that is here for us, come what may. 

You are not alone. You are loved.

Peace and grace to you,
Pastor Bethany


Bethany Cseh is co-pastor of Arcata United Methodist Church and Catalyst Church.