Lots of areas in the United States and around the world are opening up in the coming days and weeks. This has left us with mixed reactions and emotions. Spikes in cases are seen in the American South and countries like Brazil and Russia are experiencing continued rises in cases. Experts and common sense warned us that this would be the case, as the single greatest risk factor for any person in contracting the virus seems to be the one thing: exposure. However, over 39 million people have filed for unemployment or government assistance here in the US alone, and these people understandably want to be able to have the opportunity to earn a living and support their families. So many voices have been swirling around, with valid concerns on both sides of what seems to have become a heavily politicized issue. Hairdressers and bike shops know they are valuable to those they serve, yet well-meaning governmental organizations may declare otherwise. There will be an end to the fear of contagion...but what will life be like next year, or the year after, when the economy and perhaps culture as well are re-shaped? What form will "essential" take? What (or who) will we collectively decide is important?
If the coronavirus has demonstrated anything, and it has shown us many things, one of the most compelling is how it has highlighted that precisely because of our vulnerabilities or differences, we are the same.
We all have an immune system, some have one that is more compromised than others. This virus affects each of those systems differently and can target personal weak points. Some "healthy" people have even found themselves to be more vulnerable than expected.
Part of the way that COVID-19 attacks the body so effectively is its ability to alter the ACE2-receptors, which affect our immune function. Viruses like this one also are able to affect how our DNA replicates, or how our bodies create the 'selves' we experience.
"Viruses find their way inside our own DNA and commandeer it to make more copies of itself. Viruses are, in many ways, the ultimate parasites. Yet we, like every other creature on Earth, have a complex relationship with them. Many of the traits that make viruses so effective at transmitting disease also make them an essential part of our genetic makeup."
What this COVID experience is asking of a body fighting the disease on an individual level is the same question that is being posed to our species, to our common humanity: to learn our Lessons In Place...
How can we be aware of our own 'weak points' of connection, and can we learn from other living species that we need to approach life here on Earth more symbiotically? Our lives are inexorably wound up in the survival of each other.
Herd immunity will not come from separation, either physically or emotionally.
Yet we will not be able to appropriately respond to this threat to all of us, if we do not respond to the urgency of need experienced by some of us, (such as our more vulnerable populations like the homeless, the elderly, the chronically ill and the very stressed-out) and also to the knowledge the better-informed among us may have, such as public health officials and health care workers.
This virus has taught us that everyone is essential.
The process of determining what the needs of needs will be is complex and requires equal participation between the helper and those being helped.
We, persons, have value beyond our productivity.
This truth alone could be extrapolated into a gold mine for many public sector issue areas including housing, finance, food distribution, education, crime-reduction, etc.
We may not have the same gifts, but we can give our best.
This is what makes the world great, its diversity. We must celebrate and protect this in each other. We must move toward a society that focuses also on how people give, rather than only what they give.
This virus is a physical manifestation of our collective fear, and all that it creates. The antidote to this fear is connection.
We are moving from a 3-D world (everything has to be physically right in front of us and our own perception is most important) to a multi-dimensional world, where we can accomplish more with less, and the ability to see and feel as others do is a necessary superpower. Of course, all businesses think they are essential, because to the communities they serve, they ARE. Let's use each other to help ourselves out of this mess. The scariest part of this period is that we don't know when it is going to end. It can make people feel hopeless. But we are NOT hopeless...
We have everything because we have each other.
We must move from FEAR ---> LOVE. This is what helps us defy where we came from and get where we are going.
We must also reach out to others.
I sent a message to someone publicized for taking her popular African dance classes to Zoom, letting her know she inspired me to teach my meditation classes online also. She responded that she wanted to join me! Take to your social media, support local and small businesses around you. As regions open up, minimize travel and shopping you don't really need to do, to leave room for others. Don't forget to savor this extra time with your families, and make new traditions with friends and loved ones you can't see.
Always, stop and be kind.
The nature of connection is simply that a bond exists. Little things like time and space are immaterial to the truth of that bond. Just ask any friend you haven't seen in awhile or any parent who still thinks of their children daily long after they have grown up and out of the house. Look to your memory of that high school teacher (hey Mrs. Plummer!) who had such an impact on you that their echos are ever-present in who you are. Our advances in technology over the last two decades have created a world that can function differently than it used to.
Being connected can take many forms, and being in-person isn't required.
Exposure is our biggest risk factor. But exposure to the needs of others is the only way out of this.
P.S. My slight blogging hiatus over the last two weeks is due to the fact that I have been working on a project to bring food and much-needed supplies to the residents of an ultra-underserved area in my state of Maryland, West Baltimore City. Many people know it as a set-piece for the popular HBO show "The Wire". These individuals simply know it as home. Already a food desert before funding and support for this community were affected due to COVID, this community needs help. More to come on how you can help me support those most at risk, and also those who increase the risk of others due to their lack of adequate supplies and access to medical care. Please email email@example.com for details.
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