Originally published: April 15, 2020
Interspersed with the waves of disbelief, concern and apprehension — I sit and wonder.
In fact, I have been wondering intently about one thing in particular since shortly after COVID-19 put our world into a vise-grip — make that a choke-hold.
It remains a point of intense fascination just how this global public health emergency has permeated absolutely EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of ALL OF OUR LIVES.
No one and no thing have been spared.
Gender, nationality, social demographic, economic status. None of it matters. We are arguably all the SAME in the eyes of this novel coronavirus.
In my eternally-analytical mind, the pandemic begs one question — philosophical or not: Is this somehow also the work of a higher power? God or some other entity forcibly swinging the pendulum way, way, way back?
A deep planetary cleanse perhaps?
After all, how could society realistically continue on the same unrelenting pre-pandemic path — where fairness, justice, equity and equality were already under siege? Will it take this public health crisis to not just champion what should be societal goals, but nourish, preserve and grow them?
Just think about the raw, raging, seemingly relentless power of this pandemic.
How it has inserted itself stealthily and deeply into both the minutiae and major aspects of life today.
When viewed through this lens, COVID-19 emerges in a very different, almost ‘heroic’ light — for the impact it appears to be making. Here’s how and why in my opinion.
- THE ‘COMMON GOOD’
The pandemic seems to have started resuscitating this ‘as-good-as-dead’ concept, which has been teetering on life support for some time.
No secret that for decades and increasingly with each passing day, the shift has been from what is good for thy neighbour TO what is the best for thyself.
Just read the major headlines on any given day over the last 40+ years or so.
While there are certainly kind, selfless, empathetic individuals around, there are many more who subscribe to the ‘me first, you later’ ideology.
COVID-19 has stripped us bare where this is concerned, with public-health officials carrying the torch flaming with that very message. Stay home not just for your own health, but for the health of those around you. If you don’t care about yourself. Fine. Care about those around then. Period.
We are all in this novel coronavirus together, remember?
Will the common good be back post-pandemic, for good? Let’s see
Being relegated to our homes with family members we either enjoy or not is a most interesting study on multiple levels.
The ‘hamster-in-a-wheel’, ‘never-ending treadmill’ lifestyle that many lead today and have led for years often erodes these key relationships and/or severely limits the amount of quality, effort and time afforded to them. That is, if these interactions are not prioritized.
Being sequestered for hours at a time with a mother, brother or grandparent effectively thrusts the door wide open to observations, real and meaningful dialogue, deeper conversations, sharing fears, frustrations, concerns, thoughts about the future. In short, a greater understanding of the human beings in our own homes. At least, it should.
If it takes a novel coronavirus to evaluate and strengthen family relationships — or at least move the dial even a little bit in this area — that can only be a good thing.
3. EATING TOGETHER DAILY
Having authored a book and video on this subject matter dating back almost 15 years now when it was still a precious practice, I have since seen its steady erosion. This simple daily ritual has become, for many, a ‘thing of the past’ and for others quite plainly, a ‘wildly foreign concept’.
The value of eating a meal together, as a family, or with a loved one, on a daily basis, cannot be overstated.
Of course, it IS a challenge. Schedules, activities, homework, shift work, sports events, etc., — there are many reasons to ‘throw in the towel’ on it. Except, that is, if you truly value the impact that ‘breaking bread together’ has on a parent and a child, on the human psyche, on communication, on relationships.
The sharing of stories that go on at the dinner table can be incredibly revealing in ways rarely replicated elsewhere. There is a richly disarming quality that accompanies a meal at the end of the day, sharing, exchanging, storytelling and hearing about each other’s thoughts, experiences, and adventures from that day.
A daily meal shared together as a family can nourish not only the body, but the mind and soul as well.
4. PREPARING HOME-COOKED MEALS
Safe to say that this is also increasingly a ‘lost art’ when select restaurants use it as a key part of their marketing strategy. ‘Meals like mom used to make’. ‘Home-cooked, using natural ingredients’.
The frenetic pace of life in the era of technology, knowledge and innovation has conceived the ‘convenience industry’ which in turn has given birth to fewer meals being fully-prepared at home with fresh ingredients. Talk about a ‘novel’ concept.
Of course, it is ‘easier’ to pick up a ‘meal on-the-go’ from the super-handy grocery store aisles dedicated to this service. They are strategically placed so close to the edge of the door of these stores that it is tantamount to a ‘drive-thru’ — without the car. Humans can wheel in and out in a flash, pay for and finish their meal faster than it would take some to write up a grocery list.
With restaurant restrictions or closures, directives to limit grocery-store trips, and often almost-bare shelves when you get there — COVID-19 has necessitated stealthy and strategic grocery shopping. It has also meant more meals made at home.
Remember ‘home economics’ in Grade 9? Well it’s back with a vengeance, without the teacher and the classmates.
As someone told me a long time ago, “if you can read, you can cook”. That adage is likely getting a work-out these days, with a little help from online how-to recipe videos to help turn those grocery items into something edible.
If a public health emergency can birth a whole new generation of home cooks who aspire to making their own meals more than eating out — the health of the public will improve, moving forward.
5. THE ELDERLY
First Nations communities, several European and a great number of countries in Asia have long been lauded for how they treat their elderly — with reverence and respect.
Western nations, likely influenced in large part by our frenzied pace, have not always given aging parents, grandparents and family members what they truly deserve — their attention, appreciation, patience and time.
Then comes COVID-19, devouring the frail in long-term care homes, unnerving autonomous seniors and unleashing cascades of fear on families with elderly relatives in their care or in residences for the elderly.
Now, we are told to consider how this virus preys on those 65 years and older. How the actions of those in younger age groups can deeply influence the health and well-being of seniors.
Images of family members speaking or waving at older relatives through glass windows with heartfelt messages or engaging in conversations on a balcony — truly gives us pause.
Pay more attention to grandparents, older relatives and friends. Don’t neglect them. Do not let them die alone.
Why does it have to take a coronavirus to drive this point home?
6. THE SCIENTISTS
How is it that much of the world has managed to essentially ignore scientists for decades on the thinning of the ozone layer, global warming, damage to the environment and climate change?
Now, in the face of COVID-19, daily press conferences feature evidence-based information from scientists, or politicians quoting what scientists are telling them. Their findings have become what public health decisions influencing the lives of millions — are predicated on. It is the foundation for data-modelling and projections on the who, what, where and when-might-it-end questions swirling around this virus.
Why are we poring over every word that comes out of scientists regarding COVID-19?
We have previously chosen for the most part to give their research about the environment less credence? So why now?
What is the difference?
Aren’t we all impacted when it comes to our health and climate?
7. MINIMALISM IN EXCESS
When it comes right down to it, what do we really need to survive? The answer: good health. Period. Without health, everything else — food, shelter, the basic necessities — mean little.
That truth is making itself known now like never before in modern history.
It is also likely forcing many to re-consider what they truly value in their lives.
There has been so much time, energy, money, effort placed on ‘acquiring stuff’ and for decades. What good is all of that accumulated ‘stuff’— the trappings of modern life, the bells and whistles of wealth, the ‘excess’ that many would argue they do not have time to t enjoy, manage or maintain — if you don’t have health?
Less is more. And the pandemic is showing us how and why.
8. THE 3 C’S
It has been nothing short of gobsmacking to watch the 3 c’s unfold, often in real-time — all in the name of COVID-19.
Not that long ago, protests and demonstrations, antagonistic relationships, rivalries, competition — between individuals, companies or countries — dominated daily headlines.
With the forced quiet of the ‘new normal’, those voices have been muted — perhaps temporarily.
What has emerged however, is the bringing of these contrasting viewpoints to the same table to explore collaboration and cooperation, through increased communication.
The 3 C’s are being tested to make decisions under dire circumstances and with large-scale consequences.
It is remarkable to watch.
Regardless of the venue — political arena, industry, business, science, neighbourhoods, households —- people are being forced to shelve their differences for something bigger than themselves. They are being forced to think ‘outside the box’ and re-invent their livelihoods and lives to try to respond to the pandemic. They are being made to pause their personal agendas for the greater good.
There is no choice here. It is understood. #weareallinthistogether
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
We are in desperate, distressing times as a global entity. COVID-19 has called for rapid, intense and willing collaboration, rarely before seen.
Our differences should continue to be what bring us together, not drive us further apart.
Will it be sustained post-pandemic? That will be the true test.
The British appointed a Minister of Loneliness more than two years ago (January 2018).
They were clearly onto something. A grim and sad reality that many other countries and jurisdictions continue to ignore, and which COVID-19 has brought to the fore.
Loneliness is an epidemic in society . Even more pronounced in Western societies.
The coronavirus is leaving everyone who is listening to government orders — housebound.
Self-isolation, social-distancing, remote, quarantine, stand back, stay away, physical-distancing — all of these necessary actions are even more challenging over a prolonged period — for those who live alone.
While necessary at this time, and for many a conscious life-choice, solitude and seclusion can fray the psyche piece by piece — over time — even for the most ardent, content loner.
Now we likely have greater insight into how loneliness has been playing out in society — pre-pandemic.
Check up on neighbours, call elderly parents, Face-time, video chat, Zoom call those in our communities who may be alone, we are told.
Why wasn’t this the case before this novel coronavirus
10. THE SLOW MOVEMENT
There is nothing quite like being mandated to stop as a means to test the waters of ‘slowing down’. Even more pronounced when most of us now are at a complete standstill.
The pace of life, especially in a modern city, even has the hamsters and wheels whimpering STOP — if we took the time to listen to them.
The use of the word ‘busy’ for many years now has had little meaning. It would appear that it is a weird badge of honour for some.
After all, they seem to be so ‘overwhelmed, occupied, unavailable — busy’ that it makes one wonder. Busy doing what?
Busy to avoid interacting? Call display on phones has done a really nice job of that.
Busy to avoid doing work? If you look harried and sound harried, well you must be harried — right? Not quite. There are more than a few running around who have mastered the science of ‘looking busy while yielding zero output’. It is a talent.
Busy to avoid the outside world? Here’s where the personal agenda has again, increasingly, quashed the common good. It is evident when there is an marked imbalance between ‘me time’ or ‘personal time’ than ‘family time’, or being of service to others.
After all, those intent on ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and continually living in a bubble of comparing their lives to others — will forever be busy. But for what purpose and at what cost?
The pandemic has wrenched external busy-ness for most of us — in one fell swoop.
We simply don’t have the crutch of excuses at our disposal right now.
Without a daily commute, the whirlwind of expectations at work and activities with or without children, drop-off and pick-ups — so much of our ‘busy-producing lifestyle’ has vanished.
Now the majority of us are apparently busy at home.
Will the state of busy ever end? The answer is yes, it can — if you want it.
With a novel coronavirus or not, what you do on a daily basis and how you spend your time can be a choice. Prioritizing within priorities is a life-skill that can pare down so much of the unnecessary busy and replace it with meaningful busy.
Not all of us are independently wealthy, so we need to work. But what about the other 16 hours of each day?
Wouldn’t you rather be occupied doing work that has meaning and impact?
The pandemic should have many people evaluating this question, and strongly re-considering the benefits of slowing down.
Why? Because life remains — too short.
Author Carl Honore has been onto this concept for years.
Parenting is hard work. There is no manual. There are no shortcuts. If you are not prepared to work hard, do not become a parent. Period.
This is true – pandemic or not.
Laying the groundwork for building newborns into happy, empathetic and independent adults begins on day one. The slate enters the world pristine and pure.
The habits, attitudes, perspectives, and behaviours children learn first and emulate most usually come from their primary educators — their mother and/or father. The work never stops. Neither does the communications, role-modelling, understanding, discipline, routine, tough love, and whatever else is called upon in the miraculous roller-coaster ride that is being a parent.
Anything worth something in life takes interest and effort —- both of these consistently and over time.
Teachers, nannies, babysitters and the like — are not parents.
Left to their own devices during this prolonged period of physical distancing, many parents are experiencing the expansive range of duties involved in raising a child — up close and personally.
Even intensely unsettling, profoundly confining times can inspire those with a growth mindset. And perhaps this historic period is a time to truly think about what that means — even for those who tend to display a fixed mindset.
Through its all-encompassing nature, this pandemic is testing our mettle on every level and all at the same time.
No one knows what tomorrow, or for that matter what the next hour or the rest of this day may bring.
Mental toughness or fragility, a positive or negative outlook, glass half-empty or half-full, hope or despair — whatever lens one predominantly sees the world through — is under the microscope.
Surviving this extraordinary time may well depend on one’s ability to adapt, be nimble, shift gears, pivot, and dig deep into the depths of the mind.
Staring adversity straight in the eye then elevating the mind to problem-solve, compromise, alter tactics, resolve, and find ways to overcome it — takes a strong mind, sound thinking, rational thought and a raw desire to control what you can control and nothing else.
None of this is easy.
The pandemic further proves that a growth mindset has many benefits and will be necessary in large amounts during and after this crisis.
In the end, after all the devastation of lives lost, negatively impacted physical and mental health, economic upheaval, livelihoods damaged — how will COVID-19 be remembered?
Pinpointing its legacy may be too premature a task for now.
Safe to say however, that it will be utterly transformational, in some way.