It is certain, if not yet entirely clear, that the pandemic will have lasting “macro” impacts on all our lives. These impacts will affect our socio-economic, political, educational and health futures.
There will be time to consider such macro impacts, but what does the pandemic have to teach us in “micro” personal terms? What has the pandemic taught or reminded us about our greatest strengths and weaknesses? From my limited perspective, following are some very personal observations, which I believe are shared more broadly by others.
Hope. There will be no pandemic recovery without hope. All religions and all nations who endure and flourish rely on the hope of their people. Hope means we trust there will be positive outcomes from our endeavors. Hope is more than wishes or dreams. It is confidence that with hard work and skill, we will triumph. From business owners and their employees to emergency medical personnel to scientists in their laboratories, I am encouraged that hope clearly remains high.
Empathy. The pandemic has left victims and suffering. Like the coronavirus itself, little of that suffering may be visible, whether the agonized passing of someone in isolation or the silent depression of someone quarantined at home. It is often a short downward spiral from social distancing to lonely social isolation. Yet so many reach out to provide comfort.
Resolution. Once goals and a course of action have been determined, we must resolutely pursue them to a successful conclusion. While flexibility in strategy and tactics may be necessary, neither lack of resources, partisan politics nor individual ambitions should deter us.
Discipline. Medical experts and political leaders clearly tell us how to increase our pandemic survival chances. We know to maintain appropriate social distances, wash our hands frequently, disinfect surroundings, avoid symptomatic others, avoid large groups and unnecessary travel and wear face coverings inside and outside. Never has it been more critical to be disciplined and comply with expert advice. Yet it is dismaying to see so many so undisciplined and still ignoring the most visible face covering directive.
Gratitude. The simplest and yet most profound step we can take is to make clear our gratitude to those EMS and hospital workers who at great personal peril are striving so mightily to serve all of us. Perhaps the most heartwarming scenes are those of hospital personnel clapping when a survivor leaves the facility or when citizens around the world applaud and cheer doctors and nurses to show their gratitude.
Science Appreciation. Never have so many of us understood and appreciated the vital role of science not just for comfort and efficiency but for survival. Whether we conquer the coronavirus or just learn to live with it for an indefinite future, it will be science and scientists that will lead us, not politicians. Most unfortunately, that appreciation is being sullied by a lack of scientific literacy and by the mushrooming acceptance of conspiracy theories with no empirical or rational support.
Blessings. We are a brave and resilient people in a grand and glorious country with a rich and deep heritage. The nation of Washington, Lincoln and FDR, that won its independence in a revolution and prevailed in a civil war, two world wars, an economic depression, 9/11, plagues, assassinations and domestic turmoil will surely overcome this challenge. We are stronger than we think and, in the words of that old spiritual: We Shall Overcome!