If people were given the choice as to whether to live through a pandemic that forced them to remain inside, wear a mask in public, carry on their jobs from their homes or lose those jobs altogether, and worry about whether they or their loved ones will get sick and perhaps even die, most would probably ask to pass.
No doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has made us fearful and worried. We realize that, almost overnight, our worlds can be changed dramatically, our routines disrupted, our incomes reduced or lost, our sense of invulnerability shattered. When one of our concerns is whether we have enough toilet paper — a problem we rarely thought about before — we know life is not normal any more.
Yet, there are silver linings that have emerged from this unwanted, unsettling experience. Here are some:
The importance of family. Our families are who we are sheltering with. These are the people who matter most in our lives and now we are spending a lot of time with them. Friends, associates, neighbors all have their place. But our most important group of people is our family.
Home has been simply a way station for many families. But now home is a place where family members interact rather than simply flit in and out of on their way to someplace else. Family has taken on a new importance with the realization that we can do without quite a bit in life, but those closest to us tower over all else in significance.
People are more important than whatever our business is. Increasingly, I hear people in business settings inquire about each other’s health. Are you well? Is your family healthy? We now face a crisis where the people we associate with may become sick. Some may die. Even those who don’t die may experience extreme pain and even hospitalization. The business we conduct, whatever it is, isn’t insignificant. But perhaps it is paling in significance compared to the people who we associate with in our pursuit of business activities.
The most vulnerable in our society matter. Someone noted that we now heavily depend on people who make less than a living wage and whose income we are unwilling to increase to, say $15 an hour. It is true that it is the grocery store workers, the nurses, the restaurant workers, those who deliver our packages, and so on who have become vitally important in our lives.
Another type of vulnerable person is the one most susceptible to the virus. Those are the elderly and those with preexisting health conditions. We worry about them. We want them to be protected. In a sense, all of what we are doing — the temporary shutdown of the economy, job losses and sheltering in place — are for them. The vast majority of the people who get this disease will suffer pain and discomfort, but will not require hospitalization and will not die. We are protecting those who are most vulnerable so they are not harmed by this virus.
It is the mark of a civilized, compassionate society that it is willing to go to such great lengths for the most vulnerable among us. Of course, there are those who are quite willing to sacrifice those most vulnerable to get business going again. Fortunately, their voices are few and their arguments weak. Most of us understand the potentially dire consequences to our loved ones if their views prevail.
This global pandemic we would not wish on anyone, but there may be some powerful, positive lessons we glean from our collective experience. We may appreciate the value of family, the importance of people, and the need to protect the most vulnerable — sometimes when that means we must sacrifice as a society to do so.
Richard Davis is the chairman of the United Utah Party.