Hope has to be my default. There is no other way.
A friend called to share that a co-worker was recently diagnosed with COVID-19. Their mutual boss demanded the co-worker come into the office. The co-worker re-iterated that with a positive covid test they were not coming in, they would return at the end of the required quarantine.
“After fourteen days.”
“Fine, then you better be here.”
In a typical time in history this might have been viewed as inconsiderate, rude, or even callous. Now it just makes me laugh. Are you kidding me? We are living in intense social angst, each of us separately and communally confronting our own mortality and your focus, your hyper-focus, is on when this person may return to their office. You poor person, clearly your priorities have not yet adjusted to our current reality.
And that’s what this is, this is reality. The low-grade constant anxiety, the ongoing waves and resurgences, the fear for the safety of those we love and ourselves, that is all going to be with us going forward. The difference will not be in the disease but in how we face it. We can shelter in place and hide. We can demand the world operate as usual, pretending it does not exist. Or we can do what children do, resiliently go with the flow. Children ride the waves, have you noticed this?
Let us consider what this time, this experience has been like for our children. Even if we are able to insulate them from the violence of this disease there are some cultural shifts that will forever be a part of their memories, if only a part of their lives for a brief time. The wearing of masks when they leave home or go out in public. The fortresses of plexiglass that surround their desks. The loss of social engagements, rites of passage, and closure that many of them have missed because it has not been safe to host prom, graduations, or birthday parties.
Now, these are small sacrifices in the face of impending death, but to children who are so small already, is any sacrifice tiny? Is any loss a little one? The impact of this disease on their lives will extend long beyond vaccines and returns to “normalcy.” However, one fact that seems to flicker on my lips as I consider these deep and enduring realities is that I am impressed by how in the face of these challenges little people forge on.
They play, run, jump, wear their masks to the park, and carry on. There is no fear for the future or mourning for the past, only gratitude for the present and maybe the hope for ice cream later. There is a sense that they are rowing hard, but they are doing their work with no fanfare. Children carry on and carry within themselves a torch. A torch that endures this darkness. A torch that is not dampened by circumstance but that burns within them. It is their resolve to go on, regardless of the challenges they face. It is that spark for life and that willingness to go on, move forward, just keep swimming I admire most.
It inspires me to see so simple a concept exercised so beautifully and without calls for attention. The simple, daily, repetitive marching forward. They push the boundaries, test the limits, see how far they can go today. It may be only slightly further than yesterday but that’s still further than they went before and isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that a win? Indeed it is. We carry on, we march forward, for that is the only option we have today.