Can a pandemic bring out the best in us?

Can a pandemic bring out the best in us?

My husband and I were in NYC on September 11th. We saw the amazing kindness that came out of that tragedy. Shop workers giving people covered in ash bottles of water and flip flops as they walked the many miles from the World Trade Center across the bridge into Brooklyn and Queens. We hosted about 10 people in our 500 square foot apartment that night. People who couldn’t make it home.

We moved from NYC to DC during the financial crisis in 2008 so that he could take a job (and a major pay cut) to help the country rebuild. We have since found friends and a new home here. So now that we are in another crisis, we know we can manage through it and find ways to support others through it as well.

I wanted to share a few inspirations about how we may find the good in all this…from a historical perspective, a philosophical perspective, and from poetry.

The NYTimes has an article about how in times of challenge, we may find more kindness than selfishness.

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There is a beautiful passage being circulated and translated from the Italian by the psychologist F.Morelli in Italy…

I believe that the cosmos has its way of balancing things and its laws when they are turned upside down. This moment we are experiencing, full of anomalies and paradoxes, makes you think …

At a time when the climate change caused by environmental disasters has reached worrying levels, China in the first place and many countries to follow, are forced to blockade; the economy collapses, but pollution drops considerably. The air improves; you use the mask, but you breathe…

In a historical moment with certain discriminatory ideologies and policies, with strong references to a petty past, are reactivating all over the world, a virus arrives that makes us experience that, in a moment, we can become the discriminated, the segregated, those stuck at the border, those who carry disease. Even if we are not to blame. Even if we are white, western and we travel in business class.

In a society based on productivity and consumption, in which we all run 14 hours a day, we don’t know exactly for what, without rest, then all of a sudden, the stop comes.

Stop at home, for days and days. To deal with time, of which we have lost value, which is not measurable in financial compensation.

Do we still know what to do with it?

In a phase in which the growth of our children is, necessarily, often delegated to other figures and institutions, the virus closes the schools and forces them to find alternative solutions, to put moms and dads together with their children. It forces us to rebuild the family.

In a dimension in which relationships, communication and socializing are played mainly in the “non-space” of the virtual, of the social network, giving us the illusion of closeness, the virus takes away the true feeling of closeness, the real one: that nobody can touch each other, no kisses, no hugs, at a distance, in the cold of non-contact.

How much have we taken these gestures and their meaning for granted?

In a social phase in which thinking about one’s garden has become the rule, the virus sends us a clear message: the only way out is reciprocity, the sense of belonging, the community, the feeling of being part of something more great to take care of and that can take care of us. The shared responsibility, the feeling that the fate depends not only on you but also on everyone around you. And that you depend on them.

So if we stop witch hunting, wondering who is to blame or why all this has happened, but we wonder what we can learn from this, I believe we all have a lot to think about and commit to.

Because with the cosmos and its laws, obviously, we are in deep debt. The virus is explaining it to us, at a high price.

[Cit. F. MORELLI, translated into English]

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My favorite poem about kindness is by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

It is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.

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May kindness go with you like a friend during these challenging times.

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