“I’ve never seen anything like it.” I have talked with my elder friends about the coronavirus that is overtaking the world and this is the common saying. We are hunkering down in our home bunkers, stocking up on canned goods, toilet paper, water and essential survivals like chocolate and wine. Many are practicing “social distancing” the new phrase in our common vocab.
We are isolating ourselves from the connection of others for fear of catching the virus and spreading it. For some it’s a life and death situation as the death toll rises around the world. Seniors and people with vulnerable immune systems are at the highest risk. The CDC says the last great plague that mirrors this one is the flu pandemic of 1918 where hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives.
Nature has an interesting way of sorting out the order of things and reclaiming its mighty position in our lives, humbling us to bow before it. There’s always going to be a new way that nature will correct the imbalances caused by humanity and redirect us to see where we fit in the grand scheme of things.
For all our technological advancements and riches, we are scrambling to get medical professionals the bare essentials to battle the virus. We are the richest country in the world, and we are waging a battle against a silent killer.
This germ warfare experience will bring with it new understanding. Being shut off from distractions, we are forced to face ourselves and examine what’s important in life. No matter how rich we are, the virus does not discriminate. “Every knee will bend” to its power.
I think of Fred Rogers’ wisdom in challenging times such as these. He told the story of how his mother imparted words of wisdom. “In challenging times, always look for the helpers!” Simple. Sweet. Pure wisdom. “Look for the helpers.” I see the people on the front lines risking their lives for the sake of others. These are saintly expressions of humanity.
Joseph Campbell told a story about a police officer that was holding on to someone who was trying to kill himself by jumping off a bridge. The man tried to jump, taking the policeman with him. Luckily, another man who grabbed the policeman’s belt saved the two men and they were all pulled to safety. If the third man hadn’t done this, both men would’ve died, as the policeman refused to let go. They asked the cop why he didn’t let go. “If you just let go you would’ve been saved.” The policeman said, “I couldn’t live with myself if I let go. I just couldn’t go on living.”
The two men were tied to an inextricable link that couldn’t be explained in words. The policeman recognized that his well-being was tied to this tortured soul.
My sense is that the connection to humanity is so strong that we find mind-altering moments that help us see the depth of love. We are harnessed to one another.
There is a shortage of respirators and more need to be created. What an interesting dilemma. Not enough oxygen to save another. Efforts are being made to make them, so we can attend to the basic needs of the most vulnerable.
We will conquer this virus. When we beat this thing, we may have extra respirators. We could donate these to the poor. Medwish is an operation that was started here in Cleveland. The St. Ignatius graduate is a doctor who recognized how many medical supplies are sitting in waste when they could be used in countries where they are needed. He started this company to get badly needed medical supplies to other developing countries.
These times have a way of reminding us what is important. These times remind of us of our self-limitations and how we can serve in greater ways. These times prepare us for seeing our world with a nod to humility.
This quarantine time is an opportunity to not only look to the helpers, but to look to what’s next. What can we do to benefit one another? What can we do when life returns to normal?
On one hand, we are tethered to the fate of a pandemic virus, on the other hand, we are untethered to limitless potential of understanding who we are and how we relate to others in more meaningful ways.
When things return to normal – and they will. It will be nice to remember the “helpers” and those who give of themselves every day. Let their lives be the example and not the exception to the general rule of acting in our society. May we carry this good will on and develop new plans to work for the good of all in our hearts and minds.