There was a time our world stopped while the earth kept spinning. And the lights went out in stadiums, movies stopped showing, concerts were silenced, and curtains were drawn across stages. And the meanest weapons, the sturdiest borders, the most powerful forces—none could protect us from a few indifferently nefarious droplets of saliva set on conquering the world. So, we found our way home and waited for our loved ones to arrive. And the spaces and fittings we thought we knew, surprised us. And suddenly, schools and offices and art studios and gyms and bakeries and theatres—a microcosm of life fit inside our homes. And we read books and rode bikes and played cards and cooked meals. And we sat around fireplaces and tables and rocking chairs and hammocks. And stories that were almost forgotten brought smiles and laughter and evermore important lessons of joy. And time slowed down and days got longer and suddenly there was space to think. Much more space than we’d bargained for. And at the risk of losing ourselves in isolation, we found but one alternative: to be better together, apart. Call it solidarity tinged in fear, we realized that if our neighbors don’t have soap and water, it puts our own lives at risk. So we began to wish our neighbors well. We needed them to stay healthy, to live long, and to be happy. And we realized that though not everyone fits in our homes or in our budgets, there is space for the whole world in our minds and hearts.
So we tore down barriers: we fed the hungry and housed the homeless and fostered furry friends. We cared for the elderly and reached out to the lonely and held ourselves responsible for staying informed. And we celebrated day-to-day warriors: public transit operators, mail carriers, healthcare workers, veterinarians, pharmacists, and sanitation workers. And we redefined the word hero; pickers, packers, and truckers may as well have worn capes. And we sang praises to journalists, teachers, telecom workers, scientists, garbage collectors—anyone ensuring we had the care, resources, and information we needed to stay safe. And we planted seeds in our gardens and went for walks in the rain and gave the earth a little room to breathe. And fish swam back to Venice and bears reclaimed Yosemite and lions took naps on South African roads. And dogs were happy and cats were cats and songbirds entertained newfound fans. And if everything goes well, everything will be changed forever. Because making the best of a tragedy doesn't make it less so.
And when a silent march of infectious droplets reveals how societal foundations fail us, the least we can do is learn. So we’ll treat inequality anywhere as a threat everywhere, and let no one’s suffering be in vain. And the weight of some words in our vocabulary will have changed: social, distance, shelter, place. And we’ll preserve those substitutions from ‘life in the time of quarantine’ that we liked best: the gentler rhythm, the ties that bind.
And if everything goes well, everything will be changed forever. Gazes will be our hellos and we’ll save hugs and kisses for those we love. Creativity and simplicity will have their place in our days. Living with less will be applauded, shopping trips will be planned, and meals at home will be cherished. And health will always come first; our own, others’, and our planet’s. And when we turn the lights back on in stadiums and roll out the red carpets and infuse concert halls with melodies and dare to venture out into the world, we’ll lift our voices for all the ways we’ve grown.
Because our 'normal' wasn't perfect; it was greedy and prejudiced and intrusive and busy and loud. And if everything goes well, everything will be changed forever.
Thank you, Edna Rueda Abrahams, for the inspiration through Empatía Viral.