• Lindsay Way

We Are Connected

A crisis like this is a time to hold a mirror up to us as a society. It helps us understand what we really are about.

There a few basic necessities that are the subject of much political debate and toiling for so many people: housing, food, healthcare, an education. Even when the world is firing on all cylinders, we know that people’s access to these four things is both unevenly distributed and precarious. So in a time of crisis, all of this is amplified.

How many of us are in precarious situations?

One theory about the virus’ rampant spread is that Italian culture places value on physical proximity and intimate gatherings. In a place where friends stroll the streets shoulder to shoulder and groups gather regularly for social interaction, it’s no wonder this theory was floated.

Cultural commentaries on Americans, however, place us as socially isolated, distant, and independent to the point of isolation. But a virus cannot spread without us. Its only ammunition is the physical contact we have with one another, a reminder of how inextricably linked we are to our fellow humans.

If our connections matter, it stands to reason that our actions matter too. In these high-stakes days while we make decisions that will have far-reaching consequences for the human race, I see self-importance manifested in so many ways. Our elected leaders tell us each decision to stay home helps stop the spread of a virus. Healthcare workers, grocery store employees, and restaurant chefs are lauded as the heroes that keep us collectively limping along. Though we are socially distant, groups have formed overnight to donate handmade masks to healthcare workers. The significance of calling to check in on friends and family has never been more clear, whether we’re connecting with someone across town or across the country. Stories of restaurant customers leaving enormous tips or paying for other guests’ meals have flooded the internet. Never have I felt more certain the actions I take every day to self-isolate, to meaningfully connect with others, and to take care of my family unit are critically important.

It makes me uneasy, then, to see people not taking these ideas to heart. Self-importance rears its head in ugly ways too. A week after the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic, aerial photos appeared of Clearwater beach packed with people. A week after that, Miami closed all its marinas to cut down on rampant partying. Listen spring breakers, I know you think having fun is more important than anything right now. I know you’re young and healthy and the absolute certainty that you’re untouchable comes (of course) from the fact that grief and hardship haven’t yet touched you. And maybe you don’t give a shit about your grandparents or the aging couple that lives on your block, but someone else does. And when those people who care rush them to the emergency department, they will be greeted by healthcare workers on the front lines who are determined but also scared and working with limited resources. So no, your desire to have fun does not outweigh the importance of keeping people safe.

Small business owners, I’m looking at you too. The work you do is valuable. Roughly half of Americans work for small businesses owners like you, and they are just as dedicated to you as you are to them. The wellbeing of you and your employees rests on your ability to do good business. But their wellbeing is more than just financial, and it’s more important than forging ahead with business as usual. Your employees are caught between showing up to work to keep their jobs or hunkering down at home to keep their communities safe. Make the choice easy for them. Use your entrepreneurial skills to find new ways to support your community, allow work-from-home setups, and get through this as unscathed as possible.

Outside our windows, trees are blooming. I know this because I’m a sneezing, sore-throated mess on my daily walks. It’s an awkward time to have seasonal allergies! Though the days are still chilly and rainy, the lilac buds are forming and the tiniest arugula leaves are pushing up through the garden soil. It’s the first spring in our new house, and I can’t wait to fill our newly built garden beds with delicious vegetables and watch our yard transform. I’m no less excited for this than I was a month ago. If anything, I’m grateful to have dedicated time at home to pop outside any time I want. It’s hard to fully grasp that families are quarantined on the cusp of seasons changing, when laughter is usually heard reverberating in our yards once again. I’m reminded the natural world continues with or without us. The world does not spin only if we survive. All that’s left is to be kind to one another.

I wonder how the world will be different when this is over.

Right now, the political issues of the day seem trite. What do we care of immigration, abortion, vaccination, economic growth, government assistance for food, healthcare? In a precarious moment where safety and survival are paramount, it seems sadly funny these issues should create division at all.

-March 23, 2020

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