I was going to write an article about how this virus has taught us about how we are all much more connected than we realize… but you know what…? Nah. That ain’t it. That’s not where the story ends. The more I see things playing out, the more I see that as just one part of this whole equation.
This is an eerie time for sure… my generation has experienced things that we had only read about in history class: great recessions, disease and terrorist attacks. Now, a microscopic RNA sequence has served us a harsh reminder of the extent to which we are all definitely interconnected. Someone from Wuhan, China who lives a different life is connected to me. I’m worried about isolation and how I need to call my brother who has asthma. I am connected to those in Italy who went viral singing together on their balconies in quarantine. Those Italians are connected to the two crazy white girls I saw yesterday while venturing out to get food.
They were dancing and bobbing, running between the sidewalk and the middle of the street. This frantic and continual motion didn’t jive with the big down jackets they both had on. I looked closer and saw one of them holding a cell phone in the air and yelling. After stopping to scratch my head, I realized that in a window, high up in the sky sat an old woman who was peering down at them, also holding a phone. These girls were in front of a nursing home, most likely talking to their grandmother. They couldn’t go up to hug her or hold her hand, so this was the only way they could make her feel loved during this quarantine. I will never forget that moment in my life. It is a story I will tell future generations when I describe how sometimes hard things in life remind you of what matters and the simple routines or gestures that you can so easily take for granted. It was a tragically beautiful moment.
This whole thing is not what we wanted. Coronavirus has disrupted all of our very important plans and busy, busy lives. Absent a vaccine, we all have to use this time to separate… and for the first time in a while, some of us may be realizing how difficult that is. How many people do we walk past and interact with every day. Honestly, memes are showing us all the broad implications that we never thought of! I keep hearing different stories from people and thinking, wow… yeah, I didn’t think of how that would be affected. This has been an opportunity for me to slow down and to see more clearly that It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the distractions of life.
The sports world has been put on hold, and none of us know what to do. On a serious note, the National Basketball Players Association estimate that around 50% of the league population will test positive for the Novel Coronavirus!! This is how close these guys work together. Did you see how shook the NBA community was when Kobe Bryant died? We were all deeply affected, but we saw some of our heroes cry. Did you see Iverson in the two videos from All-Star Weekend? That was tough, as it’s rare to see a man so iconic and successful be that clearly hurting. Growing up, he was the ultimate warrior to me: he didn’t care what the size of the opponent was or what injuries he had to overcome. MJ cried in front of everyone, and we all understood.
Athletes have a sense of camaraderie even when they are on different teams. That’s something we can take to heart. There may be people and ‘teams’ that you do not like… fair enough. But you are still connected to them. We scream at the TV when a player doesn’t make a smart decision. Let’s make smart decisions to stay sanitized and limit our social interactions for as long as it takes. Check on those you love. Texting and social media can be poor substitutes for hearing someone’s voice. Remember when we used to talk to people on the phone for hours, with no agenda?? I talked to so many mamas of friends and crushes!
This pandemic is a shared experience of the entire world. Wherever you travel to in the future, no matter where someone is from, you’ll be able to discuss where you were in life during the Coronavirus outbreak. Our connectedness as the human race is at the forefront of all of our lives right now. Believe it or not, that’s the warm and fuzzy side…
Many of us have the privilege of being accustomed to convenience, luxury and self-determinism. The disruption of that can be upsetting and/or scary. With that in mind, I don’t want to downplay anybody’s fear or anxiety in this situation, as that is a very real thing. At the same time, if you are one of those ranting and complaining about having to stay home, be bored, cook food and work from home as an annoyance, then you may need to check your sense of reality and gratitude.
Imagine if, while quarantined, all of our water was compromised, and people died at home… there would be HELL to pay and a public outcry to hold the government responsible. Welcome to Flint, MI, ladies and gentlemen. Some of us are experiencing what may feel like 3rd world problems in our 1st world society. For some, that idea is nothing new.
Those in poverty don’t feel like we are all connected. At times it can feel like disparate worlds. Add to the disruption multiple layers of uncertainty. I’ve got friends whose parents can’t sell from the crop they depend on selling all year. They have to figure out how to survive. I’ve got family that works for the city. They have to keep working and be exposed to the entire population.
Let’s talk about how 50% of people in America live paycheck to paycheck. The poor (which is largely inclusive of black and brown minority groups) are more likely to have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and heart disease on top of a lack of access to health care. Reasons behind these are a topic for a whole different article.
I saw shots of people in Louisiana in the news lining up for unemployment applications with masks over their faces. It was sad, but I understood: they had no choice but to risk infection to make money just to be able to live. Some have to decide between food or medication even with that check. More than 3 million people claimed unemployment in a week’s time at the end of March. This is the highest rate of claims in a single week in U.S. History; the previous record being 695K. They estimate that around 50M (or 1/3 of the U.S. workforce) will either have their hours reduced or be let go. According to LinkedIn, 86% of the most vulnerable jobs pay 40K or less. The numbers are staggering.
Essential workers, like janitors, delivery service workers, nurses, and food service workers are being celebrated (as they should be) for holding the line for us. The truth is, some of them have no other choice. Some of these are the people who can’t afford to completely separate. Compare that to the stories you hear about those fleeing to more remote areas (the rich flying to Hawaii to get away, and putting the islands at much higher risk).
There are children who were going to school on free and reduced lunch because they couldn’t afford it otherwise. Those kids won’t have that anymore. They may be at home with parents who also lost their jobs, and have to find another way to feed their family…. without any way to find childcare. Sadly, there are those in our country who live in abusive households, where school and friends were their only escape. There has already been a reported rise in domestic abuse cases. Sports is a main source of motivation and accountability for some kids that are trying to rise above bad situations at home or in their neighborhoods. At times, coaches can act as the only father figures some of these kids have.
Empathy may not always be our strong suit as Americans. We will defend our stances and rights to the death. Part of me is proud of that. Part of me is sad about that.
Instead of thinking about connectedness from the perspective of autonomous individuals in how it affects us or our loved ones only… let us remember the hurting among us. Those whom this is not just a nightmare, but also a life-changing catastrophe. Those at the bottom, or in high-risk categories are not simply disposable because it doesn’t affect you in a clear and direct enough way. I have a friend who framed this in a beautiful way right here.
Let’s call a spade a spade: black and brown people are dying at rates more than twice their share of the population. The scary thing is that all of the data on cases of contraction of the virus is just based on what has been tested and reported. Testing has not been as accessible in poorer areas. Amid this problem, Donald Trump wanted to have the country opened up by today (Easter)… to stimulate the economy before being shouted down by health experts. If that doesn’t spark a fire of anger in your heart over privilege and injustice, I don’t know what will. Too bad Kanye went to the sunken place when we needed him most.
I’ve always felt that empathy was an underrated means to understanding others and their motivations and perspectives. It is one of the factors that makes us human, no matter the level of pigmentation or melanin in your skin. It can help us to help each other live in more harmony. It can help to uncover actions and attitudes that are rooted in fear. It can help to draw out the best in what others can bring to the table. It can help you to move on and be healthy and happy when you know you deserved an apology. Empathy is a very important crux of both karma and spirituality. Empathy can also have a side effect of strengthening our own senses of gratitude along the way. I contend that you can’t fully grasp the human experience without empathy.
If you’re wondering what sports has to do with this, remember the clip of AI crying for Kobe earlier in this article. If these men can devote their lives to competing interests in the same goal as true rivals and still embrace one another, then why can’t we do the same in America? Until that time, many of us will have more respect for athletes than for many of the constructs of our own society.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, as China is recovering and slowly returning to work… but I hope we take the opportunity for something of this magnitude in our world to shift our perspective on things just a bit.
Yes, the ‘Rona shows that our world is interconnected… but we have farther to go to make it just. Many of the NFL players that I’ve heard many deride for being overpaid and privileged have been a part of donating over $35M to the COVID cause. A good portion come from much more modest beginnings. How have the execs at your favorite product’s companies helped? The power of where you spend your dollar will have influence in the new world.
Someday there will be movies and documentaries about this very strange moment in history. I’ve gone to the grocery store, and the feeling is something I’ve never experienced: people wearing masks and seeing the look of fear when you pass people in the aisle. When I saw a child walk by me with a WWII-style gas mask on, I knew that image would be burned into my mind for the rest of my life. We are truly living in times that will be talked about in the textbooks of future generations. How will it change our world? Will we find ways to help each other against a common threat?
This may all seem idealistic, but many times in history, calamitous events are the only pivots by which change can prosper. We can each take part in this empathy and opportunity for change. How can we help to influence disparities in housing, air quality, healthcare, education, Job opportunities, etc.?
If you feel powerless against structures of society, I think you are not alone. Maybe think about how you can be there for those who need it? Can you have tough conversations? What can you bring to the table to help the world around you? How about policies? The suspension of tactics that strike fear into undocumented communities during this harsh time? Encouragement for people to access mental health care when they could use it? One very small thing I’ve tried to do is tipping any delivery persons or restaurants 30% or more for their efforts during the pandemic. Let’s start dialogue on what we can do. The time for empathy is now. That’s how we can work together to come up with solutions.
Your busy life has been put on hold. You can’t scurry around and fill your day with distractions and appointments. The world has slowed down for a once in a lifetime re-evaluation of the things and people that we truly love and value. We choose what kind of “normal life” we want to move our world back to once this is all done. YOU choose that for yourself and those around you.
Inconvenience, hardship, suffering, each to varying degrees, has been on the forefront of consciousness for us all recently. It has magnified it much more for some. How do our actions or inaction affect those around us? Those seem to be COVID lessons, but they should also be life lessons. What kind of a society do you want to live in? I ask because everything has a cause and an effect.
In survival situations, a natural instinct is to be concerned with your safety first. What happens next? You have to check on others and band together. We have to share this world, our country and our neighborhoods and streets. We are connected in one way or another. What’s crazy, is that many either don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood.