You can choose what to focus on in the midst of a crisis, as we find ourselves in now.
Today as I passed through Trader Joe’s just to pick up a “few” items (which, inevitably, ended up being more), I could feel the tension, from the line I stood in to enter through the checkout stand.
I studied the faces of the people around me intently. The collective stress we are all bearing is showing in people’s expressions, in their demeanors, in their movements.
There is this collective raised awareness of the fragility of life. Of course, those who deal with chronic pain or illness, who have overcome a cancer battle, or who have gone through the traumatic loss of a loved one already understand this.
But beyond all the toilet-paper hoarding, Coronavirus memes and news reports left and right is something else. Maybe you’re catching it – and I’m not referring to the virus.
I’m talking about a higher level of sensitivity to the humanity of others. Not just the people you know. But those whom you don’t.
I’m feeling it.
A personal anecdote
As I passed through the checkout, I spoke with Rodney, an energetic, bearded cashier whom I’ve seen before but never really interacted with.
This time, it was different.
We talked about the Coronavirus and its impact. We talked about our kids. I told him of my youngest son, who’s home on break from university but now will be remaining at home for at least another three weeks as they move all classes online.
I also told him of my older son, who’s 24 now, and how he and his wife are studying to get their masters degrees in Ireland.
“Oh, wow!” he exclaimed. “I have a 27 year-old. But I also have a six-year-old baby girl.”
“That’s a big gap,” I commented.
“Indeed it is. She’s the one who really made me change.” He smiled widely
“Whaddaya mean?” I inquired.
“I got sober. I looked at her every time I picked up a drink. And then I put that drink down. For her. I’ve been sober now for almost six years.”
“Wow,” I enthused. “You came to see what really matters. Good for you!”
He went on to tell me how today was his last day for a week. He’s going on a special road trip with his baby girl (mom’s at home, recuperating from an operation) and he simply can’t wait to be with her for almost a week.
How Rodney’s story met the moment
Rodney’s story moved me. I thought how many times I go through checkout stands and simply “conduct business.” I know these are people who had multifaceted lives, but sometimes – gulp – I’m too busy living mine to pay much attention.
And I returned to this thought. Perhaps, if there’s any value in a tragic whirlwind of events like we’re living through right now as this pandemic unfolds, it is in (re)recognizing the deep personhood of every human being we meet.
In an age of advised “social distancing,” perhaps we can exercise “social unity” of the heart and spirit.
I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but in the U.S., we sure could use some of that right now.
What are ways you can exercise “social unity” of the heart and spirit today?
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Caroline has created YourGlobalFamily.com to help parents raise globally minded and hearted kids. With the Coronavirus pandemic, Caroline is building GlobalCafé.Live, a new online café for people all over the world to come together and share their experiences on relevant topics face-to-face. For more information, contact Caroline here.
Caroline and her husband Dale created YourGlobalFamily to mentor parents to raise globally minded and hearted kids. Caroline is also the founder of GlobalCafé.Live, providing opportunities for people from around the world to connect live during the Coronavirus pandemic and beyond. Venmo: @carolinedp