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What if the coronavirus is here to teach us something?
I get it, that sounds insane. At this very moment, it’s practically absurd. But, hear me out.
Our world is disconnected.
Maybe intentionally because people have some ideas that we’re safer, more protected, and, in general, we’ll be more prosperous by protecting our territory from foreigners.
Maybe our world is disconnected unintentionally—you know, as the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind.
What’s not out of sight, out of mind? My child’s trembling hand when they cough because they’re worried they might have coronavirus. My children’s worry that if they are quarantined, they’ll be removed from me. Racial slurs I’ve heard muttered about Asians—even worse, about “Orientals.” My body nervously shaking in my car when another person whips into my parking spot and gives me the finger with an angry face and furrowed brow, leaving me to wonder if I’m safe.
All of this is based on fear. I believe fear stems from two things: 1) disconnect, and 2) lack of understanding, which has led to jumping to conclusions. Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t just for COVID-19, it’s for all things of which we don’t have a common understanding or with which we cross purposes. It’s for all things that don’t have a direct personal impact.
People in Africa are dying from significant killer diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS due to a lack of medicines. But, if we have those medicines, then we’re not as likely to be personally threatened. So, we can feel bad for Africans and “send love” from afar, but not feel motivated to do much more.
I’ve heard the west criticize the east for being “dirty” and saying it’s their problem if they get sick from poor hygiene. Citizens of developed countries can shake their head with sympathy toward developing countries, acknowledging the living conditions are inhumane.
At the end of the day, it’s their problem.
And, “they” are whoever we’re not.
But here we are in a global crisis—specifically, a pandemic.
This is where the coronavirus may be stepping in to teach us a lesson of connectedness.
As the pandemic implies, COVID-19 is a world issue. We are one world, one human race, and we are all connected. Which means, as demonstrated by coronaviruses, none of us are immune to anything. Whether it’s a virus, a poor choice, a loss of financial security, an illness, a natural disaster, or a harmful act—none of us are immune.
With this international pandemic, all races, religions, genders, ages, and cultures are treated equally by the strains of this virus. There are no socioeconomics or classes or societies that are immune. What affects one very well may affect us all, eventually. So, what if we prioritize helping our neighbors to be healthy and live in safe environments? What if we partnered with global communities to learn alongside them instead of trying to teach them?
Some of us were born luckier than others simply because of the soil on which we were born. That shouldn’t make us privileged, but it does—which is an honor. What are we doing with that privilege? How are we connecting with the citizens of the world? How are we collectively supporting and bettering the lives of all?
Here are some actionable steps we can practice now and going forward after the virus has passed over to live in a more connected world:
- Educate ourselves with geographical locations of countries.
- Make it a priority to learn about what’s going on around the world. Take time to learn about different challenges and opportunities.
- Think—genuinely think—ways which can we contribute. Is it with time, talent, or treasure?
- Get out and have conversations with people of different cultures, races, and religions.
- Watch a foreign film with subtitles and eat associated cuisine. Let’s do that frequently.
- Spend time identifying our own biases because we all have them.
- Read trusted worldly content. Listen to trusted worldly podcasts.
- Talk with friends about how we’re making an effort to be more intentionally involved in our world.
- Identify who we are. What’s our race, religion, background, and culture. We must understand that before we can truly identify with other people in this world.
- Listen without any interjections or justifications. Let’s be willing to listen to what someone shares, even if it makes us feel bad or uncomfortable.
What would this pandemic look like if humanity and compassion took the lead over fear? What would it look like to care more about our neighbors in the one world we share versus stockpiling toilet paper?
Perhaps if we can see that a virus can spread so quickly across borders, then maybe that line on a map that separates us isn’t as powerful as given credit.
COVID-19 won’t be here forever. Some may akin it to a flavor of the week. There will always be something else. But, for now, COVID-19 is here, loves us all equally, and is eager to wrap its arms around us.
How about if we wrap our arms around each other first? Metaphorically, of course.