Maybe this is just an end-of-the-year desperate desire to find some good in what we have been forced to endure for the last 10 months. Or maybe my deeply buried, optimistic side is struggling back to the surface.
Whatever the cause, I actually had a minor epiphany a few weeks ago: what if the horrible nature of the Covid pandemic actually ended up doing some good? What if all the deaths and illnesses were not completely in vain but made us change some important parts of our collective lives?
We must never forget what started earlier this year. How a combination of hubris, political calculations, and the unstoppable force of nature killed and sickened so many and upended our world. But, if we don't learn some lessons from the experience, haven't we missed a tremendous opportunity to improve?
To that end, here are some thoughts I had about the potential for change.
Value essential workers. Doctors, nurses, hospital staff, those who work in nursing and retirement care facilities, firefighters, police...the type of people we think of as providing essential service to the rest of us have played a major role in our collective lives since March. These folks have always been necessary but even more so since March. They deserve everything and anything we can do to make their lives a little brighter and the load a little lighter.
There is an entirely new class of essential workers that Covid has exposed, or maybe the better word is spotlighted for us. To borrow a military expression, these are the tens of thousands of people on the front line, providing critical service to us all. After too long filling an almost invisible role, grocery store clerks, stockers, and delivery people have become noticeable for their day-in-day-out labor. The people that work to sort, package whatever we have ordered online, and then drive the trucks that bring all packages to do our door keep us supplied, entertained, educated, and sane during a time when our social moorings have been demolished.
Even though it seems embarrassing to have to point this out, teachers must be on this list. Early on, moms and dads were forced to take on the critical duty of providing for their children's educational needs, a task many were not really equipped to handle.
Then, when it became obvious this was not going to be a short-term inconvenience, teachers took on the extra load of preparing and teaching virtual lessons, coupled with partial in-person duties, when possible. The men and women we give the responsibility to prepare our children for a meaningful life are underpaid and underappreciated in normal times. Their dedication deserves our strongest support in the midst of a double workload, both emotional and fiscal.
Make clear the importance of relationships. Zoom and its sister apps have saved our collective bacon this year. Many businesses have stayed afloat and functioning, teachers have instructed our kids, family members have shared storytime, birthdays, and other important milestones with these electronic links.
But, quite obviously, we are missing human contact. Hugs, handshakes, in-person greeting, smiles, laughter, tears...The importance to our emotional and physical wellbeing has never been more apparent. Humans are social animals. I venture to guess that enforced isolation is partly responsible for some of the divisions within our country at the moment. We are physically cut off from others; that could easily lead to emotional separation.
Kickstart climate change efforts. I'm sure you remember some of the dramatic photographs from around the world during the early days of the pandemic. With businesses closed, fewer people driving, and large manufacturing plants on reduced schedules, the skies over many major cities worldwide, were suddenly almost free of visible pollution. Mother Nature had taken the opportunity of reduced human activity to blow away the gunk.
Of course, as soon as we began to open back up again in early summer, the pollution returned. What that small window of better air made abundantly clear was our impact on what we breathe and live with. Hopefully, that vivid demonstration of what is possible was not a one-off display but a preview of our future.
Developing a vaccine in record time for Covid should encourage us in the battle against other diseases. Building on what scientists had learned during the SARS epidemic of the rally 2000s, the ability to produce highly effective vaccines in just months was an amazing demonstration of the power of money and knowledge to help all of mankind. While real-life use will probably uncover some issues, the promise of these shots will alter the world's future moving forward.
Based on this success, one would hope that those working on the treatment and prevention of other diseases would redouble their efforts. Cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, heart disease...the things that kill so many of us are solvable. The rapid work on Covid shows the way forward: a singular focus and the financial support to put these deadly scourges behind us.
Demonstrate the importance of more self-reliance. Locked up at home, severely restricted in shopping opportunities, having away-from-home entertainment come to a screeching halt, finding our children depending upon us for their education...Covid has forced many to rediscover our innate abilities to solve problems and find solutions.
"They" can't solve everything. "They" may be part of the problem. "They" may actually be making things worse. We have been pushed to become creative and innovative when dealing with the hassles, shortcomings, and dangerous world we now confront. We are stronger than we thought. We have discovered solutions to obstacles on our own.
Rediscovering the joy of cooking and baking at home, or a long lost passion or interest. Learning to be content with ourselves. Finding an unlimited world of entertainment and education online, most of it free for the asking. Finding out shopping is not as important as we once believed it to be. Not missing the hours spent in cars and traffic.
Covid-19 has been a horrific experience. It has exposed the strange sight of sane people denying reality because it is inconvenient. It continues to kill and sicken tens of thousands a day all around the world. It has likely changed parts of the economy and employment options for years to come. Traveling on a plane, getting on a cruise ship, even taking a road trip remains too dangerous for most to consider.
But, like many disasters, from the negative effects may come some positives. As one of the worst years I can ever remember comes to a close, I am turning my eyes and thoughts to what 2021 may hold for us all. Fingers crossed, I think of the upside before us.
My cynical self believes that once some semblance of normalcy is achieved our attitudes will return to the status quo and nothing will change. My optimistic self hopes my cynical self is wrong.ReplyDelete
My realistic self tends to agree with your cynical self. My spiritual self hopes we are both wrong.Delete
Covid-19 has indeed benefited those it hasn't killed or financially ruined. It's helpful to think of the virus as a swan that began as an ugly duckling.ReplyDelete
It is interesting your blog post takes the same approach to analyzing some of the impact of Covid...not just the devastation.Delete
One request: rather than adding a link that I have not verified beforehand, you can point people to your blog. A direct link is available on the right sidebar. Thanks
Thanks for this positive year-end message. I would add, perhaps, the discovery of how the digital world can help keep us together. My personal example: my family is now routinely meeting on Zoom even though we're spread out from NY to AZ, from WI to FL.ReplyDelete
Social media and digital communication have developed some bad reputations due to some bad actors and those who abuse the reach of such tools.Delete
As you note, maybe this year's experience will show us the positive power of electronic connections and we will spend more energy using it for its original creation: connection.
I agree there are positives we can take away from all the stuff we've gone through this past year. I think about the how this will impact younger kids who, at this point in their lives, don't really understand how rare it is to live through a pandemic. Will they remember 2020 as the year they got quality time spent with family? I see so many creative parents trying to help keep the kids from getting bored---the family plays, the dancing and singing videos they make together. Maybe their school work will fall behind---that will be a universal thing---but many families are bonding closer than they would have been able to do otherwise.ReplyDelete
You've identified one important positive of this experience that may have lasting impact: all the family time. With so many folks in a situation that requires both parents to work, having one or both at home for more time than usual can be a tremendous time of strengthening family bonds.Delete
Of course, the flip side is revealed in the increase in abuse cases or parents who are overwhelmed by all that has happened. This situations are serious and should not be glossed over.
But, the families I know have used this stressful time to become closer and adapted well to what is a brand new experience for us all.
Great way to "accentuate the positive"! Do you remember that song? After a year like this one, I think many of us are reflecting on what we can learn. We seek to find meaning. We look for ways to do things better. You have definitely hit on some very important points here. Especially being more aware of and more appreciative of the unsung heroes who grace all our lives with their selfless service. Happy New Year to you and Betty!ReplyDelete
Yes, Bing Crosby's big hit (just before our time!) does fit. After a drumbeat of negativity that we are all experiencing, the positive side of all this just popped into my mind a few weeks ago.Delete
As Mary notes in the first comment, our realistic side tells us to not expect too much change, while our hopeful side roots for some major adjustments.
Our best back to you and family, Galen. The grandkids will be here New year's Eve, keeping us up until midnight, and then waking to a big breakfast. I expect to be napping a lot Friday afternoon!
On our blogger zoom (a weekly meeting that we probably wouldn’t have done were it not for the shut down) we had this exact same topic a few weeks ago. I think it’s important, if possible, to consider the positives in just about any situation. It helps keep us motivated and sane. I realize not everyone is in the position to do this and some are really struggling but, for those of us who can, it’s helpful to take a moment and consider what - and who - we have to be thankful for.ReplyDelete
I read somewhere that humans are the only species that have a concept of hope. That is what gets us through times like these.Delete
I feel terrible for those about to face eviction, no income or small business help because a bunch of guys in Washington are playing politics with people's lives. I "hope" things change next month, even if just in tone and temperament.
Deep within this person is a great toughness for his own integrity – a great tenacity in the face of adversity. Human nature is the most indestructible thing that we know. It has almost unlimited ability to take whatever comes – to go on surviving in the midst of unbelievable difficulties and persecutions. A person is an overpowering will to survive, to arrive at destinations. To blossom and be – with all the spontaneity of a rose at seven o’clock on a June morning. - source unknownReplyDelete
Whoever wrote that, nailed it.Delete
Hi Bob! You KNOW I appreciate your positive perspective on this. And I am pretty sure that I read that having this kind of perspective is extremely healthy (both mentally and physically) for us all. Thom and I have a painting in our living room that is of three women reaching for the sun and is titled, "The Sun Always Rises". It is our theme and keeps us going even when we are dealing with challenges (like 2020!) Thanks for the great reminders and Happy New Year! ~KathyReplyDelete
A very happy New Year to you and Thom. BTW, we had some dinner guests a few nights ago (appropriately masked and sitting at different dining tables!) who absolutely love your part of California. They are buying a 40 foot RV and becoming full timers. Their winters will be spent in the Palm Springs area!Delete
Yes it is a pretty special place...of course I'm prejudiced because I grew up here. Fortunately Thom fell in love with it too. And no matter how much we consider moving other places (even other countries this last year!) we still keep coming to the conclusion that this makes the best home base for us. Of course leaving during the summer is REALLY important too because it can get pretty miserable...but for now..especially this time of year...it's perfect! I'm sure your friends will love it! ~KathyDelete
Bob, those are all great points. Another positive that I’d like to add is that this pandemic had shown us in a very empirical way (daily case counts, number of deaths) the value of a pro-social orientation or commitment to community responsibility over rigid individualism. Those countries, provinces, states, towns, etc. That have emphasized taking responsibility to protect and care for others in our community, especially the vulnerable, have fared better than those that have promoted “my right to do whatever I want because I shouldn’t have to tolerate any constraints on my personal freedoms for any reason.” There is a lesson in this.ReplyDelete
The wild west, every man is an island, do your own thing approach doesn't work in a connected society. Even the most freedom-focused person cannot get by without some interaction with others (doctors, mailmen, people who deliver packages, build his jeep, sell him bullets for his hunting rifle, arrest him for robbing a bank....total freedom stopped about the time the rule of laws was established. Those who rail against the loss of individualism can only talk about that because we have laws and shared responsibilities.Delete
How would a total freedom person react if the only gas sustain where he can fill up his truck decided to charge $10 a gallon? That person would go ballistic, but met with the response by the gas station owner that it is my right to charge whatever I want. Pay it or go somewhere else.