The world news is dominated by a huge dilemma: When will it be safe to reopen the stricken economy? Denmark led the way by reopening its schools first, while there has been more of a gradual reopening of stores and public spaces in many other countries including the United States. For many who are currently unemployed, restoring work is essential. While the economic impact of the coronavirus has been drastic and unprecedented since The Great Depression in the 1930s, the emotional impact on human beings has also been devastating. As I write this blog, there are over four million cases of the virus worldwide and approaching 300,000 deaths, but also a significant number of recoveries. It is comforting to know that many people are listed as recovered because they now test negative and this should give us hope while we also need to acknowledge that economic and human recovery will be difficult and slow as we try to return to our normal rhythms.
Perhaps the economy will prove so resilient that it comes back healthier in 2021, but will people also emerge physically and mentally stronger? Many of us currently feel overwhelmed by isolation and despair because of the negative impact of the virus, but this time of quarantine has also been an opportunity to regroup and take a good look at our lives. Workaholics who never seemed to have time for family and friends before are now available and reaching out to others in a meaningful way. Many people have expressed a greater appreciation for freedom of movement and personal gatherings. Even simple quotidian details like more daylight hours in springtime are now noted and rejoiced. We can enjoy cleaner air and water as nature has benefitted from less human activity. Can we find ways to keep our environment healthier?
Those who received excellent care can now give thanks to those who provided it. Introverts and extroverts have learned to understand better their social anxieties and needs within physical barriers. Children have grown closer to their parents and found ways to learn outside their traditional classrooms. Innovations and creativity have continued to develop; ingenuity and resourcefulness know no boundaries. Young and old are using technology to learn and connect with others. Some of the medical breakthroughs associated with the coronavirus such as antibody therapy may provide long term benefits to society. Telemedicine may become an essential tool of healthcare. We are learning how to cope albeit difficult and slow.
When we emerge from this ordeal, what will become the “New Normal”? When will people feel confident returning to work, sending their children to schools, shopping, dining in restaurants, attending movies, sporting events, concerts, and theater performances? Will we be permitted to visit freely with our friends and loved ones, especially those in care facilities? Will cruises regain their popularity, especially with seniors and families? Will air travel feel safe again? Will we continue to be hypervigilant of others and keep our distance? When will we hug and shake hands freely again? Will we value our lives more and material possessions less? I am reminded of some bits of John Lennon’s lyrics to “Imagine”:
Imagine all the people
Livin‘ for today….
I hope someday you’ll join me
And the world will live as one.
Above all, let’s apply a fundamental value of Validation and show empathy and respect for one another. Today I am grateful for the number of people who have survived the coronavirus after testing positive and look forward to seeing how we will become better and stronger human beings for having endured this crisis.
By: Fran Bulloff, VTI President