Coronavirus makes us think about dying. It should make us think about living.
“Day in day out my tear-stained face
Pressed against the window pane
My eyes search the skies desperately for rain
‘Cause rain drops will hide my tear drops
And no one will ever know that I’m crying
Crying when I go outside”
Wish it Would Rain
Performed by The Temptations (1968)
Right now Americans are experiencing mass grief, anxiety, and depression over the coronavirus. My family has not been exempt from this surreal atmosphere. We need a counselor-in-chief to comfort us, relieve our fears, and let us know that all will be well, if not normal, when we get past this pandemic. To solve this problem, we must look to science; to heal, we must look to our collective souls.
These are times we should come to terms with the reality that as Americans and human beings we are not as invincible as we think we are. If we run out of food, we will starve. If we can’t socially interact, we cease being human. If the virus goes untreated, we will die. What we are facing with COVID-19 should bring us to an understanding of what is important in life and how interdependent we are as global citizens.
It goes without saying we should acknowledge all courageous medical professionals and first responders on the frontline and clerks, cashiers, and other store employees who interact with the public not knowing the dangers that may surround them. My heart breaks because our government has not done everything possible to protect these workers. They are patriots at a time when we need bravery, sacrifice and someone to stand guard.
For those who thought living was about accumulating wealth, you can’t take it with you. If the stock market crashes, it won’t be worth much anyway. It is not about who can win the next Super Bowl or World Series. It is not about who’s the best looking or best dresser. It is not about viewing the browning of America as an existential threat to one’s survival. The virus did not come to America courtesy of “bad hombres” from Mexico. This is a wake-up call for all of us to get in touch with why we are here.
Despite the heroic acts of some fellow Americans, there are those among us who behave like spoiled brats whenever there is an interruption of their privileges. While children in many parts of the world are dying because they don’t have safe drinking water, some Americans are pitching a hissy fit over not being able to easily get to grocery stores to buy paper towels and bottled water. In Sub-Saharan Africa, malaria kills one child every 30 seconds, about 3,000 children every day. Over one million people die from malaria each year, mostly children under five years-of-age. This has been going on for over a century.
To be sure, COVID-19 is serious, deadly, and must aggressively be combatted using the best science and medical knowledge available. But the same single-minded commitment we possess for eradicating the coronavirus, we must possess for helping save the world from all infectious diseases. We must go beyond lip service to demanding that healthcare is a human right for all and that poverty and economic inequality, at home and abroad, become relics of the past.
At this point, the U.S. is behind the curve in testing, acquiring and producing equipment, and treating those who are sick. This has caused a shortage of ventilators, hospital beds, and medical personnel. Behind closed doors officials are quietly talking about how to prioritize who gets treated if these shortages continue. Will there be an arbitrary cut-off age, let’s say 70, for determining who gets an empty bed with a ventilator? Will it be based on who can pay for the best treatment? Who’s the sickest? These are important ethical questions that no one has faith our federal government will answer correctly or morally do the right thing.
For me, personally, the most difficult part of where we are today with mandated action is social distancing. A baby cannot not survive without being touched or held. Given what we’ve been through the last few weeks, I believe human contact is critically important to our overall health. My oldest daughter is nearly 300 miles away, and I long to wrap her in my arms. It does not feel natural to run away from shoppers in the grocery store or not to shake hands with a neighbor you pass on the streets. The notion that we are social beings seems to run deeper than our socialization. We need to be in community. We need to be held, hugged, and loved.
I am not as afraid of dying now as I was before. I cling to the belief that each day we don’t celebrate life we don’t deserve to to covet it. Each day we cannot find a minute or two to smile, laugh, and find happiness in being alive, we’ve wasted 24 hours. Each day we haven’t hugged our children, spouse, significant other, friend (after the social distancing period ends), we have failed to give healing to ourselves and those around us who need it. Each time we’ve turned a deaf ear to another in need, remained silent in the face of wrong and evil, and turned our backs on injustice—we have cheapened what blessings life brings to the world.
My daughter, the one 300 miles away, when she was five-years-old sang a song taught to her by her teacher, Sammie: “Love is something if you give it away . . . you end up having more.” Life is very much the same. Once we survive this crisis, let’s begin to LIVE. Let us give more of our lives to good causes, ourselves to each other—we’ll end up having more.