What will save us?

Remember when we first started hearing about widespread cases of Coronavirus? We were – and are – still learning about COVID-19, so I washed my hands until they bled, thinking that if I just kept my hands and my home clean enough, my family would be safe from the virus. 

It wasn’t long until stay-at-home orders were put in place. We started boarding up the extracurriculars of our lives, ready to ride out the storm at home. Since then, a debate has raged about the utility of social distancing and the effects it has on our economy, our mental health, and education for our children. As folks begin re-entering society, the debate has shifted from whether we should go out to how we should behave when we do: to mask or not to mask. 

And yet, as much as I advocate – demand, even – that my family wash their hands, stay at home, and wear masks, I know that none of these measures will save us. They are critical to slowing the spread of the virus, to be sure, but the truth is that just my family alone taking these precautions isn’t enough. If we are to keep this pandemic at bay, we must work together to do it.  

Now, in addition to facing a global pandemic, our country is exploding in grief, outrage, and pain over the systemic injustices perpetrated against people of color. Protesters have gathered in cities across the US and around the world to demonstrate with action that Black Lives Matter and call for policy solutions to address 400 years of injustice. 

All of the debate, the protests, the fear, and the mourning can leave us feeling isolated, hopeless, and alone. But, if we take the time to listen to each other, to see each other, and truly hear each other, we are able to learn deep and undeniable truths. We are all in this pandemic together, but we are experiencing it in very different ways. 

I have friends who have lost not just one family member, but many, to this pandemic. I have friends who don’t know a single soul who has been infected. I have friends who are afraid to leave the safety of their homes due to the chronic illnesses they have lived with for years, and I know of business owners who are terrified of losing their livelihoods if the stay-at-home orders persist. And I know people of color who are suffering disproportionately from the Coronavirus pandemic due to the pandemic of racism that has raged in this country for centuries.

It’s easy to see why the debates rage on when we are all coming from very different places. In these days when we are called to take sides when every action we take has political ramifications when all that we do to keep ourselves safe feel woefully inadequate, I hope that we remember that by recognizing the pain of others we can heal the pain in our country. Our nation faces big challenges right now, and it is going to take all of us working in community to solve them. 

While washing hands, social distancing, mask-wearing and civil disobedience are all important, I know none of these alone is enough to save us from this pandemic, from this injustice, from this unraveling of our country’s fabric. 

What is going to keep us safe, advance a healthy society, and keep us working toward a just and active peace in this country is the relationships we build with one another. It is the way we support each other and listen to each other, to become close enough to allow the pain of our neighbor to resonate within us so deeply that we cannot look away from it. 

Then, we are forced to act, and those actions become a better way of life. 

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