The virus that was supposed to bring us together is now driving some people apart. Many hold strong opinions regarding when and how we open the economy. Additionally, thoughts vary on the appropriateness of restarting schools and colleges this fall. While some are totally comfortable with responsibly socializing, others find comfort in quarantine.
I’ve spent a lot of time observing these past weeks, and now, more than ever, there seems to be two distinct camps… those who are ready to open up and those who feel the need to wait. There doesn’t seem to be a ton of people in the middle. Rather, most people appear to be committed to one side or the other.
Yet, recently a deeper concern has emerged - how we are treating those with a differing view. At a time when we need to come together, there seems to be a line being drawn in the sand, one which determines which camp you are in, where your allegiance lies.
What I’d like to suggest is that we blurry the line and try to understand the motivations behind others’ needs. This will allow us to better respond with compassion and kindness instead of judgment and shaming. Some people need to return to work. However, others need to know that they will be safe when they leave their homes. If we honor the feelings of those around us, could we better understand the motives behind their actions?
The impact of this “stay at home” order has affected all of us, but in such different ways. Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones whose life hasn’t really changed that much, or maybe it’s even improved through self-reflection and time in pause mode. Yet, there are many who have lost jobs, suffered financially, become ill, or even experienced the death of a loved one. Their lives have been altered, possibly forever.
Viruses spread from contact with others. But when we become fearful of those around us, scrutinizing each other as if they will infect us, cause us harm, or make us ill, then the virus has won. Likewise, if we ridicule others for being fearful, do not respect social distancing, or refuse to wear masks when individual establishments require them, we are putting ourselves before others, once again giving COVID-19 a “W.” While we are all experiencing the challenges that accompany this “new normal,” we cannot lose our best selves to this virus. That’s why it’s critical that we support one another through this pandemic.
So, let’s return to the initial question. How do we come together? While we may not be able to eliminate this virus, we can do a better job at understanding each other. Right now, it seems as though many of us are allowing our fears or needs to drive our bus. In doing so, we’ve lost sight of the necessities of those whose perspectives differ from ours.
If we became aware of and then open to how others felt, could we better understand their actions? Would kindness and compassion help us respect those with differing requirements?
This whole move forward is going to take some time… not just to figure out how to get people back to work and open restaurants, businesses, and recreational areas, but also to put in place comforting procedures to help people feel safe once again, to trust one another.
We all have our own levels of comfort. That’s why some people sky dive and others wear life jackets when they’re near water. There’s no right or wrong. We should honor who we are.
Yet, for us to come together, we must also honor each other and their concerns. It doesn’t mean that we must change our opinions or actions – we all have a right to these. It’s when we try to understand a bit more and judge a bit less that we slowly come closer together in spite of opposing views.
I believe that we can all become better humans as a result of this virus. But doing so requires that we be gentle with ourselves and others, realizing that our uniqueness is our greatest gift, just as another’s is theirs.