A Time To Share

Unemployment

I have had many different lives during my seventy one years on this earth. When my father was our family breadwinner I enjoyed luxuries that many of my cousins never realized. We always had a relatively new luxury car. Our home was modern and filled with beautiful furnishings. After he died things changed drastically. Suddenly I learned what it was like to be continually worried that our family might run out of food before the next check came. My mother was masterful at stretching our meager income and somehow always found a way to keep us supplied with the basics of food, shelter and clothing but there was always a specter of losing it all looming over us. I suppose that because of that experience I never again took any good fortune for granted.

When I became an adult I worked alongside my husband to provide for our family. Neither of us ever made a great deal of money but we almost always had what we needed to enjoy a comfortable life. We were able to purchase a home and pay for our daughters to attend college. We even managed to prepare for our retirement years and have enough to take some wonderful trips here and there. Nonetheless I never quite got over the anxieties that I often felt when as a child I would look inside our refrigerator and see bare walls with a day or two left before we would be able to replenish our larders at the grocery store.

Living from check to check is stressful and so I have always had a clear understanding of the students that I taught who were living in circumstances even more dire than the ones that I had experienced. I knew that one small emergency or illness or needed repair can turn into a major disaster for anyone whose economic situation is precarious. I also understood that once someone is in such a situation even with very hard work it can be challenging to move up the economic ladder. For that reason I have never felt beset upon when my taxes were used to help others in need. Instead I have been grateful that I have enough to share for without government help and that of my community I don’t know what would have become of my brothers and me.

I have always lived with a sense of appreciation and a feeling that those of us who have more should help with those who have less. I have never begrudged the social programs that give people an economic boost even if they result in individuals like me paying the government a bit more to keep them running. I am a person who knows what it is like to wait all day long in a free clinic to get inoculations for school. I am someone who benefitted from the social security payments that kept my brothers and I alive after my father died.

With the scourge of the pandemic and the bust of the oil industry there are still millions of American citizens who suddenly find themselves unemployed. These are people who only months ago had great jobs and plans for the future. With little or no warning they were suddenly informed that their positions were being eliminated. It was a kind of insult added to injury as they scrambled to cope with all of the inconveniences of the pandemic. In some cases both husbands and wives faced unexpected job loss, so when Congress voted to provide an additional six hundred dollars a month to their unemployment checks it was a godsend. In may instances it was literally the needed assurance to keep their homes. Nonetheless I also learned of people that I know who became homeless in a time when we were supposed to huddling in our domiciles. 

There are many unfortunate souls who are now in a state of anxiety because those extra payments are slated to end soon and they have yet to find new jobs. Even as many in the retail and service industries are opening back up and lowering the numbers of those without work, large corporations like BP are announcing plans to lay off ten thousand more. Sadly both the president and many in the general public are reluctant to extend the unemployment benefit past July. They even cruelly suggest that those who are still hunting for jobs are just lazy slackers who need to get off of their behinds and get back to work.

That would be all well in good if everyone had a position waiting for them to go back to work. I personally know highly educated, brilliant and hard working individuals who have been unsuccessfully attempting to find jobs for over three months. In a good economy they would have been snapped up in a week or so, but our present situation is still fragile and employers are reluctant to begin a hiring frenzy. The more likely outcome is that there may be even more layoffs in the coming weeks. Knowing that, the unemployed people that I know have expressed a willingness to relocate anywhere in the world if necessary. They will uproot their families and venture far away from the lives they have built if that is what it takes. In the meantime they need help because for every job that materializes there are thousands of applicants.

Most of us have only been slightly inconvenienced by Covid-19. We may be bored and desirous of resuming our normal lives but we are not wondering what we ill do when our savings are gone and we have no new leads on work. We should all be insisting that we take care of our fellow citizens in these unprecedented times. Even if it takes a pinch out of our own comfortable lives we should not mind. Americans are known for generosity. Now more than ever we need to think of the people who are lying awake at night worrying and provide them with the reassurance that we will not let them down.

Ironically when I was writing this blog I made a cup of tea and reached for a fortune cookie that came with a takeout dinner that we enjoyed a few Fridays ago. The message inside seemed to say it all, “Pure love is a willingness to give without  a thought of receiving anything in return.” We have to get through all of this together. The weight of sacrifice should not be limited to a few. Demand that Congress continue to take care of people still struggling to find work.

A Time For Healing

It’s far too soon to speak of the Covid-19 pandemic being over. It’s doubtful that we will be able to flip a switch and go back to the normal, at least for a time. There will be a wariness in the air until there are no longer daily outbreaks of the disease and a trustworthy vaccine is available to everyone. Still, we are becoming more and more anxious for that day to come because at heart we enjoy being part of a community. It is in our natures to be productive as well, to have purpose in our lives.

We’ve spent time away from the ebb and flow of the world at large. Our streets have been quieter along with our daily routines. We have had time to think, to meditate, to consider what kind of changes we might want to see in the new normal that will emerge. In some ways we no longer wish to return to the status quo as it once was because in our days of isolation we have realized new possibilities. Our worldwide distancing has in an ironic twist made us somehow feel closer. The individual who dies in Italy is as important to us as the grandfather who does not make it in our hometown.

We have witnessed a simplification in our lives, reminding ourselves of what and who is actually essential. The skies are clearer all over the world and so are our priorities and obligations to share our lives with others. As we enjoy our own blessings we realize how many people it took to make them happen. We may be in a cocoon of safety right now but we survive so pleasantly only because an army of people have worked diligently to keep the supply chain of goods and services running.

We look to our medical community for answers and comfort in time of need and see the immense sacrifices that have always been part of their work. We struggle to keep our children learning and realize the creative and caring presence that teachers have have been even while we often criticized their efforts. That onion or that loaf of bread are suddenly precious commodities brought to us with the backbreaking labor of migrant workers, people that we have sometimes derided in the past. We look to the wonders of technology to keep us connected and pray for the genius of our scientists and engineers to bring us out of this crisis.

We must surely be humbled by this pandemic which has both upended our way of life and demonstrated the amazing human spirit. Heroes that we once thought to be ordinary have emerged with powers more wonderful than Superman. That nurse who dons her battle gear day after day to administer to the dying deserves a Medal of Honor. The drivers who bring food and supplies to vulnerable shut-ins are providing an immeasurable service. The neighbors who look after one another are the very foundation of who we are as people.

We have learned to enjoy simple things. We realize that we do not need as much as we may have thought. The sound of a neighbor playing the violin is lovely enough to make our day. The birds that congregate in our trees are as entertaining as an evening spent on the town. The meals prepared at home are tastier than those at a five star restaurant. Maybe we don’t really need that extra pair of shoes or a new pair of earrings. Instead we might see who around us is struggling and help them to weather this storm.

When we speak of making America great I suspect that we now realize that it will require an acknowledgement that we are indeed members of a global community. A tiny virus has shown us that we cannot escape the fact that when a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa we are all somehow affected. This pandemic was not the fault of any one nation but we are all reeling from it.

Our new big idea should be to look around and see who or what needs help. We must look for ways to use our resources and our privileges more wisely and more universally. We need to consider our young adults who will be inheriting a world greatly changed. We must share our wisdom and work together to overcome the forces of human weaknesses like greed. We also must accept the reality that we are in a symbiotic relationship with the environment and everything we do affects the health of the earth. We humans are not the only ones who are sick, so is nature. It’s time we labor in tandem with our lovely planet.

I hope that we do not soon forget the lessons we have learned in our urgency to open up business as usual. We must be mindful of each other and what is truly important. If we just go back to our closed mindedness and most current tendencies of endless disagreements we will have missed an opportunity to not just recover physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. Now is the time for healing.

Believe

Man jumping over impossible or possible over cliff on sunset bac

We may be getting bored or even letting our imaginations get the best of us with worries about how this pandemic will ultimately affect our families, our friends, our state, our country, the world. It’s a pretty sure bet that we are in for some hard times but we are hard-wired to survive and many among us are already demonstrating the most honorable traits of our human personalities. All over the world people are pitching in to fight the battle against this virus with whatever talents and tools they have. It’s almost impossible to list all of the contributions to the cause that I have witnessed and I’m certain there are many more of which I am unaware. Whether it be laughter or medical expertise, optimism or leadership, knowledge or brute force we the people of this planet are working together just as we always do.

Of course there will always be naysayers and instances of selfish acts or even ugliness and evil that stain the good intentions of the majority but we’ll just have to ignore and work around such things for now. We don’t have the time or the energy to spare dwelling on the negative when there are so many positive things to be done. Our competitive natures should feed on the glory of teamwork and the kind of good sportsmanship that understands that the real winners are always those who adhere to a code of honor.

Each of us has a role to play, even the very young and the very old. All we have to do is consider our individual talents and then use them for the cause. The young woman who delivers groceries to someone’s doorstep is as vital in the battle against this disease as the doctor who toils tirelessly in the trenches of a hospital. We need our generals but their plans can only be carried out with enough foot soldiers to storm the enemy which in this case is the dreaded Coved-19.

We are long past the time for divisions and recriminations. It is a waste of our energy to dwell on mistakes or to indulge in fruitless critiques. We must rise to the occasion of this moment if we are to surge forward into a bright future. As a human race we must focus on our common needs rather than our political or spiritual or geographic differences. When all is said and done our only enemy is the virus and that should be our focus.

I’ve always been inclined toward a willingness to compromise. I’ve found few situations in which I have won all of my arguments regardless of how good and true I believed them to be. If I get even a bit of what I want I see it as progress and so I think we need to be as we work our way forward from the brink of this disaster. Each little win is a treasure. We can work out the smaller issues once the people of our world are healthy again. Hopefully we will share the common goal of rebuilding with a worldview rather than a tendency to horde our good fortune in isolation.

Sometimes it takes a tragedy for the scales to fall from our eyes and allow us to see clearly. My fervent prayer is that we will emerge stronger and better and more understanding than we have ever been. I suspect that the road will be long and hard but we’ve been rather lucky in the past so perhaps it’s now our time to shoulder a few more challenges than we are accustomed to balancing.

I have found myself marveling at the courage and kindness of my friends, a motley crew of people from all races and generations and professions who nonetheless share a determination to soldier through the fears and hardships of this pandemic. When my own anxieties begin to overtake me I invariably witness something wonderful from them that provides me with the motivation to take a deep breath and another step forward. We have become lifelines for one another and a source of hope in a situation that might otherwise become too dark to bear. Our humanity is shining through as magnificently as I have always thought that it would if ever it was being tested.

I am a religious person and my faith admittedly helps me. When I am most fearful I find myself silently singing, “Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come follow me, and I will give you rest.” These words from a song by John Michael Talbot seem to whisper in my mind, reassuring me that we have ultimately got this. While I know that not everyone shares my beliefs I know that I will be more ready to help my fellow human being because of the love that is the center of my religious convictions. For now I simply pray that each of the souls across the globe will somehow find a source of comfort to sustain them as we work our way back to a more normal future.

My gentle advice for everyone is to find something that you do well and give to others. Maybe it’s cooking a nice meal or calling to check on a friend. Each positive offering is important to someone and just may be the very thing that saves someone’s life. Keep doing what you do best and then just believe.

Who Are You Staying Home For?

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Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York created a campaign called “Who Are You Staying Home For?” It puts the rationale for our stay at home advisories into perspective because there are valid reasons for each of us to isolate not just for ourselves but for the good of someone else. It got me to thinking about my intentions for keeping to myself for almost five weeks now.

I have to admit that I do not wish to contract Covid-19. I tend to believe that if I were to do so I would survive just fine, but I don’t know that for sure. Exposing myself to the virus would be a kind of Russian roulette that our healthcare workers are forced to endure on a daily basis. They don’t need another case to deal with and so it would be incredibly selfish of me to flaunt the directives and potentially place myself in harms way. So I stay home for all of the dedicated individuals who are responding so valiantly to caring for those unfortunate souls who have somehow caught the virus. I hope that somehow I and others might lighten their load if we manage to stay well.

I’ve also been quite worried about my husband, Mike. He only recently had surgery to correct major blockage in the arteries of his heart. He is doing well but I believe that if he were to catch Covid-19 it would be quite dangerous. He’s seventy two years old with heart disease, a combination that does not bode well for anyone who comes down with the virus. I am vigilantly staying away from any situation that might be a source of the disease. I order all of my groceries and when they arrive I have a routine for disinfecting them that I use religiously. My hands are cracked and quite ugly from all of the washing to which I have subjected them. I am obsessively compulsive about taking all of the precautions quite soberly knowing that if I get flippant and catch Covid-19 there is a good chance that I will infect Mike.

I’m staying home for the people that I have never met who might accidentally catch the virus from me if I become infected and travel brazenly around my neighborhood and my city. I don’t want to be that person who spreads disease because I am unwilling to be careful. I don’t want to be someone who assumes that we are being duped into a draconian situation that is based on some grand hoax. If I flaunt the rules and I am wrong I will only be complicit in prolonging society’s suffering. I’m staying home so that we have a chance at getting back to normal sooner rather than later.

I’m staying home because I truly believe that God has given us the intellect to know what we must do not just to save ourselves but also as many of our fellow humans as possible. He has placed many brilliant doctors and scientists in our midst who believe that if we can flatten the curve of contagion there will be fewer lives lost. Why would I not listen to the experts? Why would I be so arrogant as to believe that without any knowledge of viruses and medicine I know more than those who have studied these things?

I’m staying home for my children and grandchildren so that they will have one less person to worry about because I know that they are indeed concerned about me. I want them to be confident that I am going to be fine because I am not taking any unnecessary risks. Staying inside my house is a very small sacrifice to provide them with a greater sense of well being.

I’m staying home because this virus really is novel. There is so much more that we must learn about it. I want the rise of emergencies to subside enough that those who study such things will have more time to discover the secrets of Covid-19. We have to know exactly how it works and what if anything is capable of stopping it both before and after it happens. I want to help clear the hospital decks so that this kind of work can commence without interruption.

I’m staying home because I know that it is the right thing to do. I understand that sometimes my liberties must be secondary to the good of all. I may have a right to be cavalier but if doing so endangers others then I am wrong to insist on bucking the system.

I’m staying home so that those who have lost their jobs may possibly get back to work sooner rather than later. I understand that we must all make sacrifices and be willing to help each other even when we are once again allowed to emerge into the outside world.. There will be much need for support and I want to be healthy and ready to do my part.

Who are you staying home for?

A Wonderful World

wonderful world

My mother must have told me thousands of times to “watch and learn.” I took her advice so much to heart that she once had to chide me for always staring at people when we were out and about. I meant no harm, I was just observing them and taking notes in my mind. I’m fascinated by life and the way people respond to the world around them, so naturally I am obsessed with noticing how folks are reacting to the pandemic.

On the whole I’m pleased with what I see. I have found kindness to be on the rise with each passing day of isolation. Even business phone calls are more friendly and caring than they might have once been. People are genuinely wanting to be pleasant and helpful. Most of us are taking the time to be patient and thankful as well. It’s a nice contrast the the hectic stressful pace that seemed to be the way of life only a few weeks ago.

I ordered a birthday surprise and groceries for my father-in-law earlier this week. The woman who delivered the items picked up on the occasion and included a Happy Birthday balloon with the items. She also took a picture of my father-in-law at his door from a distance and let me and my husband know that seeing him smile had made her day. What she did was a little thing that only took a small bit of extra effort but it meant the world to our family. I learned something in that moment, namely that a bit of kindness goes a long long way.

I’ve had neighbors and students sending me messages to be sure that I am doing well. I cannot begin to express how important those connections have been. The isolation seems to dissolve with a text, a card, a phone call. I feel blessed to have such remarkable people in my life and to enjoy the comforts of technology that allow me to see and hear them. I know that there are people working quietly to insure that my internet and electricity keep operating so that I won’t lose touch with the outside world. They are nameless individuals but I actually think of them and feel so much gratitude for their efforts.

I see members of the healthcare community selflessly and courageously going to work each day. Some of them are members of my family. Others are former neighbors or students that I once taught. I know how afraid they are of becoming sick and being unable to care for the people who come to them. They also worry about infecting their own families and yet they overcome their fears and keep returning for another day of work.

One former student spoke of ending a twelve hour shift at her job in the Houston Medical Center. She was exhausted and ready to get home as quickly as possible when she heard a commotion on the street ahead. She worried that her journey home would somehow be delayed and just as she was feeling a bit irritable she realized that it was a parade of ordinary people cheering her and others who were leaving their shifts. She was moved to tears by their support and understanding of how difficult the work has been. For me that one moment describes all that is best in people during this horrific time.

There are hundreds and hundreds of wonderful stories which teach me once again how good we humans really are. For every bad egg there are a thousand as lovely as the finest one made by Faberge. Humankind has mostly been glorious during this catastrophe teaching me that we may be hurting now, and the future may still be difficult, but we will rise to the occasion. The collective virtue of the people of the world will sustain us.

I have also seen things that bother me but I am hoping that this experience has taught most of us to join together to do what is right and defeat the ugliness that often threatens to overtake us. We have seen how significant family and friendships are. We must cherish those relationships above all things. We have witnessed the importance of each individual within our workforce and never again take them for granted. We have experienced the loving concern of teachers for their students and should demonstrate our thanks and regard. We have realized the need for a strong healthcare system for all people, not just those who can afford it. We have felt how much we miss our faith communities and from henceforth we should embrace them with joy. Appreciation should become the central attribute of our daily lives. We must celebrate the young and the old and emphasize the value of each generation. We depend on each other in ways that have become so clear. We are interconnected with our brothers and sisters from around the globe.

I have learned so much while locked away in my home. The funny thing is that I see the world more clearly now than ever before and I am genuinely pleased to know how wonderful it is.