My Obligation

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I’ve stayed home for so long that I feel like someone being let out jail for the weekend whenever I ride around in my car. I’ve found one store that is small and rarely has many people where I feel comfortable shopping. Everyone there wears masks and the place is spotlessly clean so I believe that I am quite safe whenever I shop for a few supplies. On the other hand, I have not been inside a department store, mall or even a boutique since January. I’ve purchased all of my Christmas gifts online, sometimes with great success and other times not so much. I miss a number of experiences and people but then I hear about poor souls who are lining up to get food or are about to be evicted from their homes and I am overcome with guilt for even thinking of pitying myself. 

I see stories of people who are I’ll with Covid 19, suffering from symptoms that seem to linger for weeks. I watch the hospitals filling with some who are so seriously sick that it is uncertain that they will make it. I hear of much loved individuals who have died from the horrific virus. That’s when I am filled with great remorse for complaining that I have to stay in my lovely home with all of its comforts. Surely I should be on my knees thanking God that I am still well. 

For all of the inconveniences created by this pandemic I have been relatively unscathed and that makes me fortunate indeed. This is not just a flu and its health, economic and mental repercussions have rocked the world. I find myself asking how dare any of us whine or grumble about inconveniences or disruptions if we are still well and have incomes and food and warm homes for enduring the winter. We should all be asking what we might do for those less fortunate, how we can share with people who are feeling desperate right now. 

I see people insisting that Covid 19 is in fact not so bad, that most people have a worse time with a winter cold. That may be the case for many, but it is not so for all. Making such statements not only demonstrates a lack of understanding regarding this virus but is also incredibly rude and unfeeling toward those who have been so sick that they thought they might die or those who have lost a loved one to this horrific scourge. Fussing that most of us are having to change our lives for only a few seems to me to be about as selfish as they come. I wonder when we became so cold as a society.

I hear some of those who are doing well insisting that anyone in need of food should just look around for a job. Many don’t want to use tax money to pay rent for those who are behind in their payments. Instead they remark that people should have planned for an emergency and if they had they would not be in dire straits. I can’t imagine why anyone would be so reluctant to help in this unprecedented time. There have been layoffs without good jobs to replace those lost. I wonder where people are supposed to go to get enough income to pay rent or purchase food. Certainly we should all realize that a minimum wage job probably won’t be enough to save them. 

I feel guilty for not doing more to help but I also feel indignant toward anyone who is underestimating the extent of pain that the pandemic is producing on level after level. I chide myself for not doing more to defend those who are being beaten down by overwhelming circumstances. I know that I have to speak out on their behalf whenever they are belittled by people who choose not to demonstrate compassion for their suffering. 

I worry about the morale and the mental condition of our healthcare workers who have been working tirelessly for months and are literally exhausted and frustrated. Far too many people simply do not believe that the precautions that they ask us to follow are necessary or even effective. Folks complain about their rights to react however they wish. Too many insult the doctors and nurses and scientists, acting as though they know more than those who studied for years to become experts.

I feel guilty for living in a nice neighborhood in a country where hardship is so remote from my circumstances. I have certainly worked hard but I also have so many freedoms and opportunities that are not available to every person in the world. I was blessed with academic abilities and talents and an education all of which helped me to be successful in finding and doing work. I am essentially healthy, other than my bones, and have boundless energy. All of these are gifts that I did not earn which makes me feel even more empathy for those who are faced with brutal challenges. Sometimes just providing someone with a little boost is life changing. Watching so many fall through the cracks is so difficult without doing something constructive.

Guilt is a bad thing if it overwhelms. If instead it moves people to consider the need for changes to improve lives then it has a noble purpose. A little bit of guilt can build character as long as it is not neurotic. Guilt can be the realization of having failed an obligation. It is Christmas time and I sense that I must find ways to somehow make things better in so many ways. Time to set aside the guilt and determine what I might do to meet my obligation to my fellow human.    

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