Let me start off by clarifying that I do not consider myself “on the front lines” of COVID-19.
Yes, I am a healthcare professional and the service I provide has been deemed “essential” so I am still at work, providing care to patients, but I am not face to face with the horrors this virus is bringing upon the people it infects. I am, in my own way, sitting on the frontline of how the horrors of this virus is effecting the people who don’t actually have it.
So are you.
So are we all.
What does the view look like from where we’re all sitting?
The Toilet Paper
I watched three grown women come to near-blows in a Walmart over how many packages of toilet paper they could buy. The store manager had to assign two men to guard the pallet while a security officer escorted them out. That same week, I paid a gas station manager $5 for the roll of toilet paper in the bathroom to take to an elderly patient who couldn’t find any when she went shopping. I taught another lady how to use her microwave, carefully writing down the steps, while she cried because the meals-on-wheels guy said he would still bring her meals, but they would be frozen and she would need to heat them up, but she wouldn’t be hungry.
Instant Stay-at-Home Dad
For eighteen years, my husband has either been training for, going to, or returning from war. I have always worked in some capacity outside of our home and been the ‘primary parent’ to our two children in his absence. He has often joked with me that we (the kids and I) are more organized and efficient when he is away. That organized chaos is called survival and it is the only way we have made it through. When he is home, we share the load, but in the last three weeks our roles have completely reversed. My workload has increased and he is juggling groceries, laundry, dogs, kids… oh and that whole online schooling thing. My kids are thirteen and eleven, and I think it’s fair to say they have never had as much uninterrupted or unmitigated time with their dad as they have in recent weeks. This isn’t a vacation, this is real life. The three of them are being forced to get to know each other under very new and uncertain circumstances. Watching them navigate this new ground together has humbled me to the depths of my soul. This is a gift, but not always an easy one. If you know, then you know.
Homeschool for everyone!
From what I understand, you’re either:
1. Navigating Google classroom, Zoom, and/or YouTube
2. Ordering the homeschool starter kit
3. Hiring an online tutor because common core.
4. Have thrown in the towel. Fortnite wins.
We can all now agree that teachers do not get paid what they’re worth, right? My kids have been able to make a (mostly) seamless transition to online instruction. Other parents are trying to figure out how they are supposed to keep their essential personnel job, find childcare for their kids, and homeschool them so they don’t fall behind. Parents of children with special needs are trying to figure out how to navigate teletherapy and worrying about all the progress they have made through years of sessions slipping away.
Life is Cancelled.
The Class of 2020 will be notified via email when their degrees are complete. There will be no donning of the caps and gowns, no speeches, no pictures, no high school proms, no graduation parties. Nothing that traditionally marks those milestones will happen this year.
Sports. Gone. Just like that. No senior seasons, no tournaments. No summer Olympics.
My best friend has been planning her destination wedding for nearly two years. Cancelled. Well, the wedding is cancelled, not the marriage, but the trip we’ve been planning for two years won’t happen.
Vacations, concerts, weddings, reunions – cancelled.
In a lot of ways it feels like life has been abruptly cancelled in so many ways, but doesn’t it have to be said?
Life is cancelled… it’s not over.
At Least You Still Have a Job…
I am grateful to still be working. I tell myself that at least once every hour. More often than not, I find myself torn between wanting to slow down and spend this unprecedented, uninterrupted time with my family at home and having the privilege of going to work and bringing home a paycheck to my household. I wonder if, given the time at home, I would work on all the unfinished projects and unrealized dreams I keep tucked away, or if I would just play Candy Crush and take naps. I am torn between the privilege of earning a living while others cannot, and the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 and bringing it home to my husband and children. Most days, it feels like an impossible choice and one I never set out to make. It’s a choice I know plenty of ‘non-essential’ small business wish they had. I know it’s a choice a lot of healthcare providers wrestle with – because unless you work in emergency medicine, intensive care, or infectious disease, you didn’t sign up to be on the frontlines of a pandemic like this. The corporate healthcare companies will let you think you did so that you can continue to take those risks, earn your wage, and keep them in business.
I Hope Nothing is Ever the Same
Maybe the one thing we can all see from our front line is that we want this to be over with.
We want to see our friends and families, go back to work, back to brunch, the gym, and shopping at stores.
We want to send our kids back to school, we want to fight crowds at Disney, eat hot dogs at the ballpark, watch our best friend get married, feel the sand between our toes, and celebrate life’s milestones in person.
We want our normal back.
I hope nothing is ever the same. This virus has shined a bright and unforgiving light on humanity. Some of it is uplifting and encouraging and some people are just hoarding toilet paper. The way we respond to these challenges will have a real and direct impact on what the “after” looks like. I hope we are paying attention. I hope we take this time to look at ourselves – stop looking to our left or our right, judging and assuming – and PAY ATTENTION to who we are, the choices we make, the words we speak, and the actions we take. Look for the good.
Mother Teresa said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” The world has pressed pause so we can do just that. Love your life. Love the people in it. Remember that for more than 1 million people who have lost their lives to COVID-19, this is an opportunity they will never have – to live another day, another year, with purpose and hope. I hope nothing is ever the same. I hope we all look within ourselves and find the people we were always meant to be. I hope we will be those people on purpose, always on the front lines of a world made better because we endured to be better.
Be Kind. Work Hard. Love Big. Keep Moving Forward.