The world will always remember the tragedy of September 11, 2001. We recall the heartbreak and fear but also the tremendous community spirit that blew across the United States. I’d like to think the true American spirit shined through in those months that followed. We opened our hearts to strangers, stood in line for hours to donate blood, and loved each other through the shock. We selflessly gave ourselves away.
The past few years have been strange for America. We have been divisive and angry and unable to find common ground on much at all. We say “Never Forget” September 11th but sometimes I think our memories have dimmed. Nowadays, it seems like many Americans are out for themselves- claiming “free speech” but using it recklessly and hypocritically, not really caring how their words hurt others. We claim our “rights” to do this or do that, not really caring how our individual decisions affect our neighbors. We have made it all about us. Or all about “ME”.
I’ve often thought of my grandparents’ generation, the Greatest Generation, who sacrificed life and luxury and individual liberty for the sake of our Nation. Are we capable of such a thing now? Are we capable of acting on behalf of the Greater Good, instead of our individual selves? We managed to use our inner-compass after September 11th. Can we find it again??
I believe we still have this human decency in us and COVID-19 might be our shining moment to prove it again. And for the people out there who weren’t yet adults when the World Trade Center fell, this is your chance to join the Nation in a larger quest. It might be our Greatest Opportunity to think beyond ourselves and act according to the Greater Good.
How can we do this? We can put our community above all else and work together to keep America healthy.
We can stop fretting over the television and take action of our own. The facts are clear- the virus is rapidly spreading- and we can take responsibility as mature adults. Is this whole thing over-hyped or under-hyped? Does it matter? Certain segments of our population are in danger and we can put a protective wall around them because it’s the RIGHT THING TO DO. Current evidence suggests that older individuals and those with suppressed immune systems have the highest risk of death. Love your older parents and grandparents. Love those who are suffering from diabetes or undergoing cancer treatments. They are depending on our shields so let’s sacrifice some of our luxuries and put up the armor. Is this too much to ask?
We can temporarily alter our activities, knowing that we could be germ-carriers. Even if the virus doesn’t typically cause harm to our own age groups, we can protect our vulnerable populations by not silently spreading COVID-19 all over town. That means canceling concerts, canceling unnecessary travel, respecting social-distancing and staying home as much as possible. Sure, flights to Mexico are probably cheap, but keep the big picture in mind. Compared to the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation, is this really too much to ask?
We can learn to be flexible. We can take orders from our companies and set up shop at home, even if it seems like a paranoid plan that makes our jobs a little more difficult. Even if there is no evidence of the virus in our workplaces or companies. Do it for the Greater Good. Is temporarily working from home in your pajamas really too much to ask?
We can have patience with our schools and find ways to help our kids. Believe me, I’m not interested in home-schooling, but if extracting my kids from the public will slow the spread of this virus through our town, SEND THEM HOME RIGHT NOW. And how can we help the other kids in our schools? If both of their parents are working, can we help with childcare? Are they dependent on school meals to combat their hunger? Can we deliver food? Work as a community? Is this too much to ask?
We can stop hoarding toilet paper and supplies for ourselves. This isn’t Armageddon, nor a call to live off the grid for six months. Why not buy your weekly supply and leave some on the shelf for your neighbors? (Diarrhea is not related to COVID-19 and families still need these items on a continuing basis.) Why not buy a giant pack of disinfectant wipes and distribute them to the other houses on your block, rather than stocking your own basement? Is that too much to ask?
This isn’t going to last forever, the pandemic will eventually end. How wonderful would it be to look back upon 2020 and remember that our inner-compass steered us in the right direction?! That, together, we Americans took care of our neighbors, friends and strangers and kept our local communities healthy and strong! WE CAN DO THIS!! It is the Greatest Opportunity!!