Applying Bill’s Flu Shot Guidance to the Coronavirus

[Note: This post features notes used in a Course Companions Sunday Gathering on responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Click here to watch the recording.]

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In the early weeks of the Course’s dictation, Helen received three pieces of guidance about whether Bill should get a flu shot. There was even the possibility of the flu becoming an epidemic. So while this isn’t the exact same situation as we face with the coronavirus, it is surprisingly close. The beauty of it is that we have the author of the Course directly addressing how to respond to a flu that may become an epidemic. Surely, we should sit up and listen. Here are the three pieces of guidance, followed by six points that I feel we can glean from them for our situation.

After miracle principle 18

Discuss Giovanni very frankly with him [Bill], including the flu shot, and be sure to tell him I did kiss him on the forehead and am kissing him again now.

After miracle principle 22

Ask Bill’s help for guidance about the flu shots, but be sure to tell him not to let fear enter into the consideration.

After miracle principle 35

One now and a booster if there is an epidemic. Dr. Damrosch and Dr. Wise agree on this. (Helen Schucman meeting with Dr. Wise and Dr. Damrosch. Dr. D permitted an opportunity for questioning in his capacity as chairman of the flu board for asking re Bill’s flu shot.) (P.S.—This was an example of how miracles should work. You did not jump into the question yourself, and even though you did rush to the phone on Red’s advice, you exerted no pressure on Bill’s reluctance.

This gave me a chance to let you leave it to the real expert, whom I sent to answer the question.

Six points we can glean from this:

1. Discuss the appropriate response “very frankly.”

Jesus didn’t say “There is no flu.” He instead counselled Helen and Bill to discuss the question of the flu shot “very frankly.” And then he touchingly added “I did kiss him [Bill] on the forehead and am kissing him again now.”

2. It’s imperative “not to let fear enter into the consideration.”

Isn’t fear what drives us in these situations? “What should I do?” becomes “What will calm my fears?” How, then, can we act, but not out of fear?

How do we release our fear? The Course has many practices for doing exactly that, and we can adapt many lines in the Course for that purpose as well. Here are several that we can apply to this situation:

I am not afraid of the coronavirus for the reason I think. (adapted from Lesson 5)

God did not create the coronavirus, and so it is not real. (adapted from Lesson 14)

I can indeed afford to laugh at fear thoughts, remembering that God goes with me wherever I go. (adapted from Lesson 41)

I place the future in the hands of God. (Lesson 194)

I am perfectly unaffected by all expressions of lack of love. (adapted from T-2.I.26:1)

There is no time, no place, no state where God is absent. There is nothing to be feared. (T-29.I.1:1-2)

A happy outcome to all things is sure. (Lesson 292)

I gladly make the “sacrifice” of fear. (Lesson 323)

One of the most important contributions we can make as Course students is simply to be free of fear. Our freedom from fear makes the statement to everyone who knows us and to the collective psyche of humanity that fear is not necessary here. We don’t have to feel it. We can be rational and practical yet be entirely free of fear.

3. Take the medical experts seriously—Jesus is trying to work through them.

As spiritual students, we are often mistrustful of medical experts, yet here Jesus treats their advice as his guidance. He praises Helen for leaving “it to the real expert, whom I sent to answer the question.” And that answer? “One now and a booster if there is an epidemic.” In short, Jesus says he sent the real expert, that expert’s advice was to get the shot (and a booster later, if needed), and Jesus treats that as his message to Bill. That says a lot.

Course teacher Jon Mundy just sent an email today that said: “Let’s do the logical, reasonable things the health professionals tell us to do. If you’re driving a car you want to do so safely. Take care of that body you move around in, keep it healthy physically and mentally. Go to YouTube and watch Dr. Mehmet Oz, or Dr. Eric Berg talking about the practical things anybody should do to keep the body running well and in the meantime, ‘Don’t let anything take the peace of God away from you.’”

The New York Times had an article recently by a social psychologist titled “How Fear Distorts Our Thinking About the Coronavirus,” with the subtitle “The solution isn’t to try to think more carefully. It’s to trust the experts.”

4. Jesus is trying to work through chains of people to get individuals the information and help they need.

Jesus wanted to answer Bill’s question about a flu shot. But rather than speaking to Bill directly, he sent Dr. Damrosch. Dr. Damrosch in turn had a phone meeting with Helen, to whom he passed on his advice. And then Helen passed the message to Bill.

This conjures a picture in which Jesus is working through chains of people to get people the information and help they need. Elsewhere, the Course talks about angels being there to help. Jesus at one point even mentions Helen’s deceased friend Dave Diamond helping her.

We should envision all that with this situation. Just as governments are putting in place complex systems for response to the coronavirus, so something similar is happening on invisible levels. Help has been organized for us, and we don’t have to receive it all from within ourselves. It can also come to us through others.

5. We need to be miracle workers who give others the help they need in a gracious, non-forcing way.

The star of the show here is Helen, who clearly wanted to help Bill. So when she had a chance to speak to the chairman of the flu board, she “did rush to the phone,” but then she didn’t “jump into the question” herself—she didn’t immediately force the question into the conversation. And she also didn’t pressure a reluctant Bill to get on the phone himself.

As a result, Jesus overtly calls her action a miracle: “This was an example of how miracles should work.” This label is a big deal, since, after all, this is a course in miracles.

What features do we know about her action that we can emulate?

  1. Bill expressed a need for help and Helen responded to that.
  2. She was eager to get Bill the help he needed.
  3. She was gracious—she didn’t exert pressure on either Dr. Damrosch or Bill.
  4. She didn’t insert her own ideas, but left it to the “real expert.”
  5. She thereby was the conduit through which Jesus could get his message through to Bill.

How can we be a miracle worker in this situation?

Is someone asking for our help?

Are we eager to get them that help?

How can we be gracious and gentle in our pursuit of it?

6. Seek guidance, as Helen did.

These three messages, of course, are a string of guidance that Helen sought and received about Bill’s flu shot question. That guidance didn’t replace the advice of the expert, but instead worked hand in hand with that advice. We should follow Helen’s example and seek our own guidance about this matter.