I drove around my little section of Virginia Beach yesterday, to two grocery stores, four pharmacies, a gas station mini-mart, and a big box store, to obtain hand sanitizer, toilet tissue, and paper towels. I found none. Not even a travel sized bottle or package. On top of that scarcity, and despite living in an area where hurricanes can keep people inside for days, the cashier at one grocery store told me that their store registered the highest one-day sales ever, this past weekend. So far, COVID-19, known as coronavirus, has not yet created a crisis in our town, but the panic certainly has set in and all we’ve been asked to do is stay home.
As I consider this unfolding national crisis, I find something else at play that’s quite remarkable: the spread of the coronavirus proves to me that as much as we might try to shut ourselves off from each other – whether by walls or border patrols or exclusive clubs or coded language or even the shield of hand sanitizer – our collective humanity is inescapable.
Witnessing how the virus can’t be contained even within a country with strict barbaric laws and a Great Wall, I began reflecting on what it means to say, “Humanity is one.” As an optimist, I am attracted to how our oneness is played out in beautiful ways, like the universal languages of love and laughter, or through art and access to education. The example of coronavirus, though, illustrates another, and equally valid side of our humanity, as we are forced to come together to devise solutions amidst our shared vulnerability.
My recent research on pandemics and communal disease tells me that there is only one common factor that each of us as individuals can control; that is opportunity. If we limit the opportunity for the disease to spread to us; we will likely survive this unfolding crisis.
“A time of crisis is not just a time of anxiety and worry. It gives a chance, an opportunity, to choose well or to choose badly.”
- Desmond Tutu
So I will close now with the recommendation that each of you stay home, stay safe, and stay well. I look forward to seeing each of you when this crisis has passed and our hope for a brighter tomorrow has arrived. Spring is already arriving as the picture here suggests.