As we navigate uncharted waters unlike anything we have dealt with in our lifetimes, a variety of thoughts, feelings, and emotions continue to hit us all in various ways. For me, it seems like every day we hear stories that bring out these emotions. Some are downright scary, some gut-wrenching, and some filled with hope and joy.
“Hope and joy? What the heck are you talking about, Scott? People all over the world are dying from a disease that we have no cure for and no vaccine for. We are all stuck in our homes. When we do venture outside, we need to wear masks, stay 6 feet away from each other, and avoid touching things without first sanitizing them in some way and then sanitizing them again when we get home. I don’t see the hope and joy in any of that.”
To be honest, I don’t see hope and joy in any of those things either. Those are the downright scary and gut-wrenching things. Those are the things that are filling us all with fear and dread, not hope and joy.
However, I see some other things happening, too. Small though they may be, they are happening. As this pandemic continues and we are forced to stay in our houses and away from each other, I hear stories and read messages that give me hope that there may be better days ahead.
While there are extremely sad stories that rip me apart, I love the stories on the nightly news of the healthcare workers around the country risking their lives every day to help save others, who are then cheered as they come and go for their shifts at the hospital. I love the stories of people who fought this disease, were taken to the brink of death, and somehow managed to defy it and are now home with their families. I love the stories of children who are organizing their own campaigns to help people by sewing masks, distributing food, and just sharing their love and gratitude to those who deserve it.
When I see, hear, or read about one of these uplifting, inspiring stories, my mind often creates “What if?” scenarios.
What if people start to realize that the way we were living was not healthy for us as a society?
What if we all started to treat healthcare workers, police officers, first responders, and all of those on the frontlines of this fight the way we are treating them now?
What if parents started treating teachers and coaches the way they are talking about them right now because they are realizing the positive impact their kids' teachers/coaches have had on their children, as they themselves are struggling to provide their kids an education, while also realizing the challenges teachers and coaches face on a daily basis?
What if teachers and coaches were to collaborate and work with parents in a spirit of help and collegiality to provide the best experience possible for those they are there for – the children?
What if students realized the value and importance of what their teachers are trying to teach them every day? What if they realized how much their teachers and coaches love them as much as they are hearing right now how much those teachers and coaches miss them and love them?
What if teachers and coaches showed their kids that kind of love every single day, while kids and parents showed their teachers that kind of love every single day?
Many years ago, Robert Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”
As I look at the list of “What if?” questions above, I am reminded of that quote. We are so often faced with things that force us to ask, “Why?” In this moment where we are asking, “Why?” every single day, are we going to also stop, consider the situation, consider the future options that lie before us that we can create for ourselves and the world and ask, “Why not?”
I think we need to. I think we are standing at a crossroads. We have a choice - continue straight ahead the way we have been going or take this moment where we have all hit the biggest red light we’ve ever seen and think about which way to go. Then when the light turns green and we are allowed to start moving again, we need to turn in a different direction, one that we are all realizing now we need to go in if we are to survive. . . literally.
People often speak metaphorically about the “survival of the human race.” Right now, we are staring that in the face in a very real way. We are seeing people dying all around us, and we realize that our behavior is what has determined who has died and will continue to determine who dies in the future. This is real. This is happening.
Did We Need This?
But this is also a physical manifestation of something we need to look at in a different way. Have any of you wondered, as I have, if in some perverse way, we needed something like this to happen to make us see what we were doing to each other?
Did we need something like this to make us see that our greatest strength lies in our physical and social bonds of love, caring, and compassion for one another?
Did we need something like this to make us stop and realize that while we all have the capability to be connected through technology in ways like never before, we are NOT CONNECTING in ways like never before either?
Right now, when the only way we can connect is through technology, masks, and at a distance of at least six feet, we seem to be realizing that this is not what we were made to do. This is not how we are supposed to live.
New grandparents are only able to see their newborn grandchildren through a window, unable to hold the most precious gifts of all. Those working on the frontlines of this disease are isolated in different sections of the house from their families, unable to hug and hold the most important people in their lives. People are dying in hospitals, alone, with no family members allowed to be there with them for their final days of life.
We need each other. We need REAL connection, not in 280 characters or in 😀, 👍, and ❤️ through our phones and computers.
We need touch . . . physical, human touch. We need closeness. We need face-to-face, person-to-person interaction. We need high-fives and hugs. We need kisses. We need the embrace of loved ones, family members, and friends, many of whom we have been seeing on a regular basis for years, yet without the bond and intimacy of true, human, physical connection with one another.
Will We Remember or Forget?
My father-in-law is 82. He has Alzheimer’s. We moved in with him last year to be here for him. We are so glad that we are able to be here for him during this catastrophe, even though he has no clue how important it is that we are here. All day long he watches the news, hearing about “this Coronavirus thing,” and everyday he is amazed that he hasn’t heard anything about it before, hasn’t seen anything on the news about it.
While his disease keeps him from remembering what he just saw, heard, or read, or seeing and understanding the depth and breadth of what has happened to the world because of the Coronavirus, the rest of us don’t have that excuse to get us off the hook. We know what is happening right in front of us every day, and we need to address it and respond to it if we are going to move forward from it.
When major disasters or life-altering things like this have happened before, I have heard him say, “That’s just the Good Lord saying, ‘I’m still here people.’” I don’t argue with him because I know it won’t get me anywhere positive. But in my head, I disagree with him whenever he says that. That is not the “Good Lord” that I know and that I look to for help and guidance through times like these.
And yet, his words have also gotten me thinking. Maybe this is the Good Lord, Great Spirit, Allah, or whatever in your life you look at as the thing that is in control of it all saying, “Wake up, people. You are missing the whole point of being there on that place called earth. You need each other. You need to look past your differences of origin and opinion and get in touch with one another – physically and emotionally. You need to hold one another. You have gotten too far apart from one another in a deep, physical, emotional, and spiritual way.”
I imagine that this creator/controller of all things is laughing in some small way, saying, “Do you see the irony of it all? Even though you have developed the technology to be closer to one another than ever before, you’re further apart in terms of real human connection than ever before.
“So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to make you stay apart physically from one another for a while. Maybe your physical distance from one another will help you see how far apart you really are. By not being able to connect the way you need to, you will realize how important doing so truly is to you. And maybe, just maybe, once I ‘flatten the curve’ as you people are calling it, and you start to get back to your ‘normal’ lives again, you’ll make sure you don’t let this happen again.”
While I don’t hope that some creator/controller has done such a thing, I do hope that we respond the right way. I do hope that we take this seriously and realize we need to change. We need to start loving one another and creating deeper connections with one another.
We are standing at a crossroads. Which way will we go? Only time will tell. I just hope it's not too late for all of us to figure it out.