Everyone who’s tired of the COVID-19 pandemic, raise your hand.
Everyone who wants to go back to the way things were, raise your hand.
Everyone who remembers what “the way things were” looked like, raise your hand.
I thought so.
We seemed unhappy with each other back then, last fall and early winter. Lots of bickering, accusations, name calling and self-righteous noise was flying around. Civility was enduring a slow but sure demise.
Then the deadly shadow fell across our lives, like the strange, unsettling darkness of an eclipse that temporarily changes day to night. Only this time it didn’t change back. And instead of barking and snapping at each other, we felt our collective backs against the wall as we faced the onslaught of a worldwide pandemic that threw us together against a common enemy, whether we liked it or not. There was some scrambling to point a finger of blame. But most folks just wanted to know what the enemy looked like, and how to avoid it.
The virus has been no respecter of persons, reaching in to harm whoever gets in its way, whoever it can inflict—old and young, rich and poor, ignorant and educated, every race, every religion, every status, from the homeless to this nation’s president. Never before in our lifetime have we been as reminded of our commonalities as we are now.
Not one of us wants to die. We want to live, to beat the odds, avoid the virus, surround ourselves with safety, seek for others who also want to stay safe. We want this for ourselves, for those whom we love, and for those whom we don’t even know. As the death toll climbs, who among us isn’t somehow affected by the knowledge that every death tally represents pain, loss, and sorrow. We’re learning, like never before, the truth that no man is an island. What happens to one can happen to all.
Thankfully, there are shining lights in the midst of this. Mostly ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Many of them wouldn’t see themselves as heroes. But in this strange eclipsed place, this other world we live in, they shine in the darkness.
Moms and dads who used to make sure their kids’ socks matched and their homework was in their backpacks before sending them out the door each morning now preside over the kitchen table where two, three, or more kids hunch over laptops, wrestling with fickle technology to ensure they receive the best education they can under these circumstances.
Or they send their sanitized kids off to modified school in masks, silently praying that other parents are as cautious as they are, that their child won’t return home infected. Adding this unexpected commitment to their lives stretches many parents nearly beyond their bounds. It’s the strange new normal of these heroes whose love for their children drives them to overcome the challenge.
Other heroes are the health care and nursing facility angel workers, farmers and truck drivers, retailers and manufacturing workers, firemen and police officers, custodians and corporate leaders, and the millions of other working folks. They’re builders, not destroyers; encouragers, not demanders; solvers, not screamers. They daily put something on the line to keep their lives—and the lives of those around them—moving forward. In the eyes of those they serve, they are the heroes, every one of them.
So we adapt. It’s all we’ve got. We pull ourselves up, poke the fear in the eye, and commit to not only notice and thank the heroes, but to also figure out how we can be one.
Because heroes put hope into people’s hearts. And for now, hope is the most enduring antidote we have.