Welcome to Daily SPARC – each weekday our chaplains, friends from the Penn Religious Communities Council and other voices from campus will be posting messages of support and encouragement. 

Today’s message is by Penn Alum, Serena Bian:

My name is Serena Bian and I’m writing to you as an alumni of Penn, class of 2018. First and foremost, I hope you and your loved ones are taking care during this upheaval. Sending warm wishes your way from Santa Cruz, where I am sheltering-in-place .

I wanted to share with you 3 poems that I’ve loved this past week, in hopes that it can nourish and ground you.

Summer Day by Mary Oliver (recording)


For Courage

John O’Donohue


When the light around lessens

And your thoughts darken until

Your body feels fear turn

Cold as a stone inside,

When you find yourself bereft

Of any belief in yourself

And all you unknowingly

Leaned on has fallen,

When one voice commands

Your whole heart,

And it is raven dark,

Steady yourself and see

That it is your own thinking

That darkens your world.

Search and you will find

A diamond-thought of light,

Know that you are not alone,

And that this darkness has purpose;

Gradually it will school your eyes,

To find the one gift your life requires

Hidden within this night-corner.

Invoke the learning

Of every suffering

You have suffered.

Close your eyes.

Gather all the kindling

About your heart

To create one spark

That is all you need

To nourish the flame

That will cleanse the dark

Of its weight of festered fear.

A new confidence will come alive

To urge you towards higher ground

Where your imagination

will learn to engage difficulty

As its most rewarding threshold!


Written by Swami Kripalvanandaji (Bapuji)


My beloved child, break your heart no longer.

Each time you judge yourself, you break your own heart.

You stop feeding on the love which is the wellspring of your vitality.

The time has come.

Your time.

To celebrate.

And to see the goodness that you are.

You, my child, are divine.

You are pure.

You are sublimely free.

Let no one, no thing, no idea or ideal obstruct you.

If one comes, even in the name of ‘Truth’, forgive it for its unknowing.

Do not fight.

Let go.

You are God in disguise and you are always perfectly safe.

Do not fight the dark. Just turn on the light.

Let go and breathe into the goodness that you are.