This was the week when it really dawned on me that life is never going back to “normal.” Well, at least it won’t be the normal we knew just a few short weeks ago.
It wasn’t any one thing that made me come to this realization. Let’s just say there were enough different things this week that brought me to this place. The rise of infections. The doomsday predictions that the worst is yet to come. The pictures of makeshift hospitals and funeral homes. The new recommendations to wear face masks if you go out of your house. The rise of domestic abuse cases. And the startling number of 10 million new unemployment claims!
In the last few weeks alone, 10 million people in the U.S. have filed for unemployment benefits. Ten million individuals. Ten million of our neighbors, our friends, our fellow families. It seemed like almost every conversation I had this week involved heartache and loss. The loss of a job, the loss of a business, the loss of a dream, the loss of a friend. And in my own family, the loss of a child and grandchild.
Which made me realize that you can’t even grieve normally at this time. In the time of Corona, you can’t gather to console, you can’t put your arms around someone to comfort them as they sob uncontrollably, you can’t get on a plane and fly to be by your loved one’s side. And for many, they can’t even be present when a loved one goes. It all feels beyond comprehension.
As the week came to a close, I found myself talking late into the night with my youngest son—a senior in college—about this surreal moment in his life, and the life of all those who were expecting to graduate and head out into a booming economy to pursue their dreams. Both under a stay-at-home order, we spoke about the pain and hardship he was witnessing firsthand in Michigan, where he is at school. He spoke about the reality that there are now no jobs to go to, and how that sobering reality has sunk in for everyone he knows. My heart breaks for him. It breaks for my friends who had to lay off everyone who worked for them. It breaks for my cousin and her family. It just keeps breaking day after day as I listen to tired friends, scared people, and anxious voices.
But today is Palm Sunday, and Easter Sunday is a week away. This week is the beginning of Holy Week, a time of spiritual renewal and rebirth. So, I'm taking that as a sign that we aren’t meant to go back to what was. We are meant to go forward both individually and collectively. Each of us will come out of this time a different person, a changed human being. How could we not?
What a double tragedy it would be if we went back to the way we were. To a time when we didn’t care for our planet. To a time when we were so mean to one another. To a time when we were so divided in every way. To a time when we didn’t know our neighbors. To a time when so many only cared about themselves and saw others as the “other.”
I know this time has been brutal in every way for just about everyone financially, spiritually, mentally, physically. I know some are hurting more than others. But this time of the pandemic has also renewed my faith in my fellow human beings. I’m awe-struck at the selflessness displayed on an hourly basis. The heroism displayed everywhere you look. The kindness and generosity everywhere you turn. I have no idea where we will end up, but I find myself thinking a lot about the power of the small gestures, the individual things we can each do to make life a little bit better for another human being.
That’s why this week here at The Sunday Paper, we are going to start the #OnceADay service challenge (see below for how you can join). We hope to challenge ourselves and this community to do something “once a day” for someone else. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. It can be simply checking in on someone by calling or texting, taking a social distance walk with someone, dropping off food for someone, donating to a cause, making a mask for someone…the list goes on. It’s something that we can each look back on when this is all over and say, “Wow, I did something ‘once a day’ for another person and that felt awesome!"
Moments or experiences like this change all of us, and I’m trying to look at that as a good thing. I want to come out of this and one day be able to tell my grandchildren (when I have them) what it was all like. I want to be able to tell them about how people rose up and helped one another. I want them to know that those who survived did so in part because so many people stayed home. And also, because so many others went to work to save the lives of those they didn’t know. I want them to know that when it was over, the world was a different place. A kinder, gentler, wiser, more compassionate, more loving, more caring, more empathetic place.
When I was a little girl, my father spoke about enlisting in the Navy to serve his country and about how his family lost everything in the Great Depression. He told me it forged his character, deepened his faith and led him to his life’s work of service. I’m trying to keep that front of mind. It’s what keeps me hopeful. It’s what keeps me moving forward. There is strength and resilience in all of us, remember that. And know that each of us has a torch to hold high just like Lady Liberty that can light the path forward for our families, for our communities, for our country.
Never forget we are the land of the brave. Every single one of us is brave. We are going to get through this. There's no doubt in my mind. We are going to come out on the other side. We are not going back to the way things were, we’re not supposed to. We are going to rise. Our future is ahead. So, while we may be staying in place right now, remember that is an act of service. And don’t ever doubt that your act of service and so many others are, in fact, the very acts that are creating our future.