What COVID-19 is Teaching Us

This may be a ludicrously unpopular opinion, but I’d like to point out the silver lining of COVID-19. It seems to me that as horrific as this virus has been to people’s livelihoods and entire industries worldwide, it also brought some important and profound teachings. I daresay, the entire situation can be likened to the hardships during intense crises, such as wartime. But much like war brings about peaks of morbidity and mortality, and tests the human spirit to the point of breaking, it also somehow brings about a profound shift in perspective. Suddenly, when literally faced with death and fear at every turn, a certain clarity about what’s really important in life emerges.

The novel coronavirus has swept through to our collective doorsteps, undetected, and has claimed an immense number of lives already. It prematurely ended many beautiful lives that otherwise may have had a limitless number of potential paths and outcomes. It caused immeasurable grief and heartache for the family, friends, and communities of the deceased. It has literally been a force like the plague, omnipresent and omnipotent; an invisible enemy that doesn’t discriminate whom it infects. No one is immune, irrespective of skin color, profession or net worth. It hit us like a ton of bricks, like a torrential downpour, like a seasoned warrior, like free radicals in the body causing infinite chain reactions.

Worse still, is the fear and distrust COVID-19 instilled in each of us. The cutting edge scientific information added with misinformation and fear mongering has spread through all our media sources, infiltrating our social networks and personal relationships. With new information bombarding us from morning to night, widespread panic threatens to overwhelm our sanity and compassion. Looking at the semi-empty streets of New York pockmarked with masked and gloved individuals is like a surreal scene from a dystopia following an apocalypse.

We were not prepared to deal with the reckoning of a measly virus, a seemingly inferior, tiny infectious disease. We did not take the proper precautions at the right time, because we failed to recognize how devastating the repercussions could be. We were cocky, misguided, and blindsided. We lack good leadership, and the discipline in maintaining social distancing and isolation policies.

In fact, COVID-19 really shook the world up, and not in a good way. But it’s also a fact that humans tend to react more strongly in the wake of negative emotions rather than positive ones. We only seem to stir and pay attention in times of severe duress and strife. We do not heed warnings, and we don’t change our behavior unless it hits us where it hurts, big time. When natural disasters, acts of terrorism, or localized wars strike in specific regions far away from us, we barely lift an eyebrow. (I’m deliberately being extremely facetious, with much exaggerating, and generalizing, of course here. But the point remains.)

We tend to live by the motto of “ignorance is bliss” and not give a second thought to issues not affecting ourselves and our families, directly. We go to work for 8+ hours daily, to earn enough money for food, shelter, and entertainment. We live on autopilot, performing the same tasks day in and day out, like hamsters on a wheel. We needn’t be afraid of a zombie-apocalypse, for we have become the zombies. But we no longer have the luxury or priviledge to bury heads in the sand like ostriches. Some unfriendly microbes are demanding that we wake up and proceed with high alert.

We are being called to recognize that we are all in this crisis, together. We are sharing our planet and resources, together. We need to be compassionate; we need to be smart; we need to be efficient; we need to be innovative. We can’t hoard toilet paper, soap, medications, and other utilities and resources. We need to find new ways to function in society, and we need to redefine our priorities. We need to stand for something, or fall for everything. We need to think for ourselves, and we need to collaborate and come together for the greater good.

Already, some of these shifts are happening worldwide. We are resilient, and we evolve under pressure to meet specific needs. We are dealing with a lack of resources in ingenious ways. Businesses are shifting gears to working from home, or cutting staff and/or hours from essential in-house duties. High-end fashion companies are sewing surgical gowns and masks for the protection of medical personnel. Pharmacies are compounding hand-sanitizer for disinfection. Families are staying home and using self-care remedies and DIY recipes to avoid going to the store (they’re probably out of stock on conventional over-the-counter items, anyway!). And of course, hospitals and all their staff are working around the clock to deal with shortages of all kinds (staff, equipment, medication, sanity…). They are risking their lives under extreme duress and fear.

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But we can play a role in the outcome; we can each have a hand in creating the tomorrow of our dreams rather than our nightmares. Already, much gratitude, kindness, and compassion has shone through our collective loss and tears. Even through screens, our love is palpable. We comfort one another through Facetime and texts, and funny memes, because laughter is the best medicine.

We reach out to loved ones on a daily basis to check in, and we set our priorities straight for the first time in a while. We vow to devote more time for who and what we love. We decide to spend the rest of our lives, if we’re blessed to have more time here, to enjoy the rich natural wonders of the world. I hope that together, we unite and make it possible for many of us to do just that. Not only for us, but for all the future generations that are on the precipice of coming after us. Now is the time to awaken. It’s the time to plant seeds and to heal the planet. Because we are all one.

Originally published on Medium.

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