Things have gotten real. Our new norm is bringing out the best and worse in us. COVID-19 affected China in the latter part of 2019, and then it started spreading across the world. One thing about a crisis is the sad fact that until everyone feels vulnerable, no one truly feels vulnerable.
The Empathy Connection
As humans, it’s natural for some of us to be more empathetic than others. But, often, genuine empathy doesn’t emerge until we have personally experienced the same pain or setback, which helps us to understand and connect when we see a similar pain in someone else. It’s normal. When something doesn’t personally impact you, it can be difficult to understand another person’s pain or discomfort around it. And I feel this is further confounded by how stories are shared and presented to us.
When a tragic event is shared even if it impacts people of various nationalities and countries, it is often told through the lens of someone who likely looks like you, lives in your country, and lives in a way similar to the way you would. It is done this way to make the story more relatable and real to you. It’s done this way so you can put yourself in that person’s shoes. In other words, it becomes about relatability, which allows you to absorb the story on a deeper level.
But, here’s the thing. Pain shouldn’t be negated because someone experiencing it doesn’t live where you live, look like you or because they aren’t relatable to you. Pain is pain. And I believe that if stories were told through that lens of the person not based on how they look, where they come from socioeconomically, or where they live, it would increase our levels of empathy for one another.
Lessons Learned from COVID-19
Yet, I digress. But then again, this is why I started to write this article. See COVID-19, while alarming, disruptive, and tragic, has many lessons to teach us if we are willing to pay close enough attention. While we hear daily, the lives lost, the inadequate supply for our hospitals, and the stories of those whose lives have been sacrificed by this virulent virus, I want to shift into the other side of what is happening as well.
A month ago, as I scrolled through social media, I saw post after post of sexy women doing their best pose, silly videos, negative comments, political discord, people sharing their best life moments, expensive cars, and on and on. Here’s my point. A lot of it was superfluous. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be enjoying our life or as some like to term it ‘living our best life.’
But when the COVID-19 virus happened, things shifted the other direction quickly. When your life is on the line, you’re forced to reshift, refocus, and reprioritize. And this is what COVID-19 is doing for most people.
People shifted into several modes almost immediately. One was that of scarcity and survival. It is the person who started hoarding as many groceries, food, etc. as they could. Some shifted into their faith, some of which was strong of where it may be needed to be strengthened. Others went into I’m going to live my life by any means necessary. These were the people who said, “This can’t happen to me.” “I’m going to live my life, go to the beach, and keep it moving.” They felt the virus was overrated, especially if they weren’t at a higher risk of becoming extremely sick.
Others went into an innovative mode. They started shifting their businesses the best they could, preparing and being proactive, or creating new needs to address what they perceived or saw was needed. Or they started digging deeper into using this time for personal development and growth. Many others expressed gratitude. They recognized that even with COVID-19 that there were many things in their life for which they should be grateful.
Why so many reactions? First, because we are humans who respond to uncertainty, anxiety, and stress in different ways. Secondly, as COVID-19 started to affect you and me directly and indirectly, it got more real. I’ve been fortunate to experience a lot of disruption, challenges, and setbacks in my life and difficulties. Yes, I say fortunate, because while uncomfortable, these experiences have taught me a lot about what is truly important. I continually learned how to regroup and use difficult moments to lean into things that are greater than you, i.e., faith, a higher purpose beyond you, etc.
What Uncertainty Can Teach You
Remember Y2K when we thought the world was going to shut down? Or recall the economic crisis of 2008 in which we saw the economic landscape completely shift almost overnight? Remember how scared we were of the HIV, SARS, MERS, and Ebola crisis? Yes, these were all moments of uncertainty too! But, history has shown us when there have been pandemics, wars, pestilences that people step up and into finding a way. We are resilient that way.
COVID-19 is scary. It’s uncertain. And it poses a new risk. However, each day more information is becoming available to us, and we will get through this difficult time. And it will change us, hopefully for the better.
I see some of that happening already. Humanity, which was sorely lacking and diminishing, is improving. Neighbors are talking and checking in with one another. We appreciate people in various roles who we now lean into for resources that we may have taken for granted before.
We had naturally socially distanced ourselves via our smartphones, tablets, and computers, but yet many are yearning for social interaction. There are things we took for granted, i.e., having a job (one many of us may have complained about), having access to resources within minutes, hours and day, and having liberties that made our life pretty darn easy.
It all shifted when we were told to distance ourselves, stay at home socially, and lost access to the basics like going to a movie, a restaurant, or to congregate with members in our faith.
COVID-19 has changed things because it is forcing you and me to sit still. It is forcing us to think and evaluate. It is forcing us to focus on what matters. Your problems you may have been avoiding are there and highly present. You can’t distract yourself to avoid them.
It’s refreshing to watch everyone normalize in a way and come out of their previous public faces and have more of a front of authenticity. That is a very positive thing. We are getting some resources to help us get through. We are leaning more into our faith. We are sheltering our homeless population to help them too. We are making efforts to support our local businesses, which we may have taken for granted. We are looking out for one another. The earth is getting some well-needed rest and healing. Mother Nature appreciates less air traffic and less of a carbon footprint. And we have a greater appreciation of Mother Nature too.
It doesn’t make us less anxious to know these positive things are happening, but the hope is that once we do get through this, that we will not forget what we have learned and we will appreciate one another that much more.
I’m sending virtual hugs your way and hoping that you take advantage of this time to regroup, refocus, and be grateful for what this will bring to you (thinking ahead) and what you will learn from this experience. Until next time, XoXo.