There is no question that the pandemic has caused enormous pain and suffering all around the world, especially in the U.S. We don't hear anyone yelling "U.S.A., U.S.A.," when it comes to our handling of this deadly disease. First in the world with Covid cases is hardly a reason for pride.
Watching a film of Morocco last evening, I wondered how this small, diverse country was surviving. The figures tell us they weren't doing so well in November but are doing better now. Their population is around 36 and 1/2 million. As of mid January this year, there had been 8,128 total deaths from Covid-19. More than twice that many died in New York City between March 1 and June 1 in 2020, with a total population in the city of 8 1/2 million. Pick any country! We are first in death and grief, waiting anxiously and fearfully for our turn in the long lines for a vaccine.
Given the enormous suffering, is there anything positive to be gained from this experience, for those of us living in what many call "the greatest country on earth?" I believe there are at least ten potentially positive takeaways from this time of pandemic. This is my top ten.
1. We have a new and simple way of expressing our love for the neighbor; wearing a mask!
2. If we have: a roof over our head where we can isolate; work we can do from home; local medical care; health insurance; a computer to zoom with family; possible delivery of groceries; heat in the winter; running water; we are amazingly privileged. Perhaps it will open our eyes of compassion for those less fortunate.
3. We are gaining a new opportunity to appreciate those who serve us: the restaurant workers; the checker at the supermarket; the ambulance and truck drivers; the post office employees; the teachers of our children; the first responders; the nurses and doctors who care for us and hold the Facetime screen so we can say good bye to the dying.
4. There was a cartoon of Poof and Piglet on social media the other day. They were talking about the pandemic. Piglet mentioned that the thing he missed the most was "touch." Fist pumps, elbow bumps and high fives don't quite make it. Six feet between us can sometimes feel like six miles. If family therapist Virginia Satir is right, we're in trouble. “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Where we can, we should step up! Where we can't, we can at least verbalize.
5. Even those of us who are technical novices can be thankful for long distance vision. What a blessing it is to watch family open Christmas presents or a college present a choral concert when you can't actually be there.
6. A friend and I were talking the other day about how we were feeling. It seems to be a common conversation. When you ask, "How are you?," it has a covid question mark. We agreed that we were more in touch with our bodies these days; what they might be telling us. For men especially, this could be a positive takeaway.
7. Science has taken center stage and is teaching us (once again), there are some things we can know or learn, and some things we can't. We are offered a bit of pride with a vaccine and a dose of humility with new mutations. Science is once again a temper on human arrogance as well as an encouragement for human effort.
8. The world has become smaller. An unseen, previously unknown virus has connected us all in ways airplanes never could.
9. Perhaps our greatest human failing, especially in this country, is our outsized individualism. Somehow we have this idea we stand alone. We forget the air, earth and water that make life possible; the plants and animals that give us sustenance; the love and learning from those around us. Our connections are infinite and we are all related, sometimes in ways as small as a droplet of someone else's breath.
10. Faith! Perhaps the most important of the ten, faith is crucial in times of crisis like this. Faith in a good and loving God; faith in the basic goodness of the human community; faith that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice; faith that we will get through this pandemic a new and more resilient people. May it be so!