I have started writing this blog post so many times; there is so much going on in my head, so many thoughts, realizations and conflicting emotions. I will start the post from one angle and then my brain switches to another thought process or I read something that hits me in a different way and conflicts with the angle I am currently processing through with my writing.
Even now, as I sit down to put my thoughts together, I struggle with a variety of conflicting stories, ideas and realizations.
The reality is that we are going to be okay. The most challenging thing for most of us is the uncertainty and the restriction.
I posted on our Instagram story last week asking what the first three things people were going to do once we were able to get out and do things. My answers were: get a spray tan, get my hair done and go to the gym.
Last night on my run I had a sad personal realization. The first things I thought to do following weeks, if not months of not seeing my friends and family were things that are superficial and… quite frankly things that don’t matter.
The first things that I thought of doing were taking care of myself but not even in a spiritual or meaningful way. The first things I thought to do were not to go to brunch with my friends, not going to see my family, not finding a way to thank one of the people that have fought hard to keep this country going… Why?
Because I’m spoiled and because I had not yet been hit with the perspective I needed for it to sink in that one of the greatest takeaways we can have from this experience is that we live spoiled lives and that we have the opportunity during all of this to minimize and to really take stock of what is actually important and should be prioritized.
A friend of mine posted a story that she found and I read it as I was struggling with the uncertainty of this situation for myself. What she posted hit me harder than any other thing I have seen, read or experienced during this self-isolation period that is now into its fifth week.
I do not take credit for this, I did not write this, this is not my story or my words but they have profoundly affected me during this time and I feel it is important to share them with you. The following guest column recently appeared in the Agri-Times NW. The author is unknown.
—I talked with a man today, an 80+ year old man. I asked him if there was anything I can get him while this Coronavirus scare was gripping America.
He simply smiled, looked away and said:
“Let me tell you what I need! I need to believe, at some point, this country my generation fought for… I need to believe this nation we handed safely to our children and their children…
I need to know this generation will quit being a bunch of sissies…that they respect what they’ve been given…that they’ve earned what others sacrificed for.”
I wasn’t sure where the conversation was going or if it was going anywhere at all. So, I sat there, quietly observing.
“You know, I was a little boy during WWII. Those were scary days. We didn’t know if we were going to be speaking English, German or Japanese at the end of the war. There was no certainty, no guarantees like Americans enjoy today.
And no home went without sacrifice or loss. Every house, up and down every street, had someone in harm’s way. Maybe their Daddy was a soldier, maybe their son was a sailor, maybe it was an uncle. Sometimes it was the whole damn family…fathers, sons, uncles…
Having someone, you love, sent off to war…it wasn’t less frightening than it is today. It was scary as Hell. If anything, it was more frightening. We didn’t have battle front news. We didn’t have email or cellphones. You sent them away and you hoped…you prayed. You may not hear from them for months, if ever. Sometimes a mother was getting her son’s letters the same day Dad was comforting her over their child’s death.
And we sacrificed. You couldn’t buy things. Everything was rationed. You were only allowed so much milk per month, only so much bread, toilet paper. EVERYTHING was restricted for the war effort. And what you weren’t using, what you didn’t need, things you threw away, they were saved and sorted for the war effort. My generation was the original recycling movement in America.
And we had viruses back then…serious viruses. Things like polio, measles, and such. It was nothing to walk to school and pass a house or two that was quarantined. We didn’t shut down our schools. We didn’t shut down our cities. We carried on, without masks, without hand sanitizer. And do you know what? We persevered. We overcame. We didn’t attack our President, we came together. We rallied around the flag for the war. Thick or thin, we were in it to win. And we would lose more boys in an hour of combat than we lose in entire wars today.”
He slowly looked away again. Maybe I saw a small tear in the corner of his eye. Then he continued:
“Today’s kids don’t know sacrifice. They think a sacrifice is not having coverage on their phone while they freely drive across the country. Today’s kids are selfish and spoiled. In my generation, we looked out for our elders. We helped out with single moms who’s husbands were either at war or dead from war. Today’s kids rush the store, buying everything they can…no concern for anyone but themselves. It’s shameful the way Americans behave these days. None of them deserve the sacrifices their granddads made.
So, no I don’t need anything. I appreciate your offer but, I know I’ve been through worse things than this virus. But maybe I should be asking you, what can I do to help you? Do you have enough pop to get through this, enough steak? Will you be able to survive with 113 channels on your tv?”
I smiled, fighting back a tear of my own…now humbled by a man in his 80’s. All I could do was thank him for the history lesson, leave my number for emergency and leave with my ego firmly tucked in my rear.
I talked to a man today. A real man. An American man from an era long gone and forgotten. We will never understand the sacrifices. We will never fully earn their sacrifices. But we should work harder to learn about them..learn from them…to respect them.
We’re going to be okay.
We are being asked to sit in our homes, to go outside for exercise and gather only with the people in our households. We are being asked to not hoard items at the store but to only purchase what we need. We are being asked to sit in our homes or on our property and that small action will save lives.
That is the “sacrifice” we are being asked to make. To sit in comfort and to forgo restaurants and bars and selfies on rooftops, cruises, trips and parties. Is there more to it? Absolutely. But, for the majority of us, that is our sacrifice. That is how we can make a difference not only for our families but essentially for the world.
When you break it down to the bare bones of what we are being asked to do, most of us are not sacrificing much of anything. We are living in the comfort of our house. We can still communicate with our families, we can still reach out, keep in touch, worship, shop, sleep, eat, bathe, spend the quality time with our kid and significant others that we were, just weeks ago, moaning we didn’t have time for.
Just weeks ago, life was too busy for us to “make time” to sit down with our families for dinner, make that phone call to a loved one or a friend, reflect on what was important to us or our journey. Now, most of us have that chance.
Are there rough days? Of course. The uncertainty of not knowing when this will end wreaks havoc on the mind. Not being able to see friends and family or have that in-person connection with others is hard but this country was built on the shoulders of people who sacrificed much more than we are being asked to sacrifice during this time. We’ve got this. We can do this.
We’re going to be okay.
There are people who are sacrificing more. They are on “the front lines” of this fight. They are truck drivers, grocery and essential store workers, healthcare workers, first responders and others deemed “essential” during this crisis but in reality they are essential to this country all the time.
They are tired, they are sore and hurting and are overworked, underpaid and putting themselves at risk for us.
One of the amazing women I went to college with is a nurse, many are in fact. This woman has a husband and children of her own and she and her co-workers are among those keeping us going during this time. One such co-worker put together this touching video showing some of the faces of people who are making true sacrifices during this time doing the job they did every day before this happened and will continue to do after this has passed. Check it out below.
We will rise up. We will overcome this. We will come out of this on the other side with hopefully a new perspective, a new strength, a new reality and a new grip on what is important and what we need to focus our efforts, time and energy on. Each other; building strong relationships, nurturing those relationships and appreciating them.
My hope is that our focus will not continue to be on the superficial things that we have been forced to “give up”. At the end of the day, those things don’t matter. You matter, I matter, your neighbor matters, your family matters. That is what matters.
Putting the phone down and focusing on what in this world really matters. It isn’t our spray tan, our eyebrows, our clothes, our purchases, tv shows, games on our phone, social media, it is each other. Our relationships; cultivating them, building them, solidifiying them.
Hope is not cancelled. Relationships are not cancelled. Memories are not cancelled. Inspiration is not cancelled. Let’s take this time to focus on what is in front of us, the opportunities that are being presented to us so that we can emerge from this stronger, more connected, more energized, more grounded.
Some of us are out of work, some of us are filled with anxiety, with uncertainty. Do you need help? Ask. Do you need hope? Ask. Do you see someone struggling? Give them hope, give them help. Get creative so that you can be there for someone who is in serious need right now.
“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Christopher Reeve
There are people who ARE making incredible sacrifices; heroes in everyday life, doing their everyday job and they are keeping this country running while we are being asked to do our part and stay home. Let’s take time to appreicate that and reflect on that. Let’s rise up and do our part which is to stay home and think about who we want to be and what we want to value when this is over… let’s do that for them and for us and for those who have lost their lives to this virus.
For those of us who are simply being asked to stay home, there is a lot we can do. Rise up. Look into yourself to find the opportunity, the challenge being presented to you. This is our chance to be better, our chance to change and adapt for the better; to come out of this filled with hope for ourselves, a new understanding of what we have and what is important and the opportunity to move beyond some of the things we clung to so desperately that truly do not matter.
We are going to be okay.