This post is not about funerals. But it does make me curious. Why do people react so strangely during times of discomfort and uncertainty? Sometimes the answer is to step back, say nothing at first, and assess the situation. Let the right way—the kind way—to respond present itself. And when you have something kind to say or something helpful to do, that’s when you respond.
I remember after my mom died, a coworker came to me. We’ll call her Dee. She told me she was sorry about my loss, then asked if I still had my dad. When I responded that, “yes, my dad is still living,” she was relieved. She said, “Oh, well, that’s good. At least you have him still.”
I’ve watched and studied people over the last year and a half. And like many of you, I’ve been completely shocked by what I’ve witnessed—puzzled by how people have reacted to what we’ve all been dealing with. (The key words in that sentence are “we” and “all”.)
I’ve watched how people have turned to different things during the pandemic, a rough political year, and to civil unrest.
Some have protested and demonstrated over a large number of issues, demanding change on the other side of the issue. In many cases, it was the only thing they could do—the only activity that could absorb their anger and show just how much they desired change.
Some have taken to social media with their anger, frustration, and desire to convince others that “their opinion” was the correct one.
Some have turned to religion.
Some have eaten and drank their way through the stress.
Some have picked up new hobbies, changed careers, cleaned out their closets, taken on projects around their home, planned future adventures to go on once the world returns to some sort of “normalcy.”
Some (many) have died.
Some (many) have mourned the dead and regretted choices.
Some have worked like hell to save those who fell ill. And they continue to do so.
When the pandemic began, I thought science was the answer.
I thought we (people of the entire planet earth) would listen to scientists and medical professionals (real medical professionals, not fake ones).
i thought we would listen to people who cared about saving lives, not politicians who care about… being politicians.
I thought we would do what needed to be done to ensure that our children would grow up safe and healthy.
I thought we would be thrilled when a vaccine gave us a fighting chance to take back what we’d lost.
I thought science would lead us to make sacrifices for the greater good. I thought science would urge us to see the truth of what we were facing and make decisions to save lives. That would be the humane way to react, right?
When we realized we were facing a global pandemic, I thought we would look to history and learn from past mistakes. And that we would do better than we did the last time.
We did look to history. We (the whole of us) saw those mistakes. We did not do better.
I honestly thought we would do better than this. I knew it would be a tough, heartbreaking road. There was no doubt in my mind on that. But I thought we would react differently than we have. I thought we would react more humanely. We didn’t.
I thought we would care about each other. Mourned those who have died. Be sad for those who have lost loved ones.
I thought we would make changes along the way so that more wouldn’t die. We can still do this. Will we?
I thought—hoped—we’d be kinder to each other. We weren’t.
But we still can be.
Because Dee was technically correct about the overall sentiment of her statement: Some of us are still living and breathing. As long as we have that, we can do better.
But will we?