From the past one and a half year, the world has been mired in not one deep crisis ____ a pandemic, an economic meltdown and one of the most fraught political transitions in the history. Interwoven in all three have been challenging issues of racial disparity and fairness. Dealing with all of this has dominated much of our energy, attention and, for many people, even emotions. We are, by and large, moving past the worst moments— which makes it a good time to take a deep breath and assess the changes that have occurred. While no one would be displeased if we could magically erase this whole pandemic experience, it has been the crucible of our lives for a year, and we have much to learn from it — and even much to gain. It has been a bumpy road, but some of the lessons learned have changed optometry practices forever. There has never been a better time to share that true smile—the one so big that it reaches the eyes. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down and changed not just the way we live and work but also how we think and behave. Every part of the world has been affected, and every aspect of life has been impacted. Our everyday routines were brought to a stop, and any sense of normalcy was lost. While we stop and look at the world around us, one cannot help but realize what one used to take for granted. Perhaps there are some life lessons to take away from this pandemic.
Lessons We Learnt:
1. This world is interconnected. We often think of each country as a separate entity and being very different from one another. Within a few months of the virus first being identified, the virus spread to nearly every country, and a global pandemic was declared. Despite the differences and distance between places, we are battling the same virus and having the same struggles. It’s a reminder of just how our world economy and society are interconnected on many levels, including supply chains, communications, technology, and travel.
2. Humans are social creatures, and we need social interaction and human contact. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of social interaction and human contact within almost every aspect of our lives, including education, employment, entertainment, and recreation. Efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, including physical distancing, quarantine, and stay-at-home orders, have prompted and exacerbated social isolation and loneliness. This pandemic has made us realize how much we miss social interaction and things as simple as a hug or coffee with a friend at the café.
3. Humans are adaptive, and life is more flexible than we think. The pandemic has been a time of extraordinary change, and we have had to rapidly change and adapt to the evolving situation. Many individuals have lost jobs and have been forced to find creative ways to pay the bills. Many others began working from home. Schools turned online with virtual learning. Many physicians started offering telemedicine. This pandemic has been a testament to just how resilient we are as humans and our ability to be flexible and creative in the face of uncertainty.
4. There is goodness and humanity, even in the darkness. At the start of the pandemic, there was a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) among hospitals and health care facilities, and many health care workers were reusing the same disposable mask for days or weeks at a time. Immediately, community members gathered together to procure masks, 3D print face shields, and hand sew masks and scrub caps for health care workers. People and other NGOs were donating food to hospital workers and first responders. And people were volunteering to bring groceries to the elderly. These acts of kindness and appreciation from the community have helped keep me and many of my fellow health care workers going, working day after day during this pandemic.
5. Life is precious. Be grateful for what we have. With over 40 Lac lives lost to the pandemic all over the world to date (and over 1.1 million worldwide), this pandemic has made us re-think our priorities and remember how precious life is. It has been a reminder to appreciate the smaller things in life – the things I often take for granted. This pandemic has made us re-evaluate our lives and assess our priorities and served us a reminder of how precious life is and appreciate the small things in life.
Since the virus can be defeated somewhere only when it is defeated everywhere, it shows us the terrible folly of pretending that we can achieve security in isolation, within the borders of our nation, culture, class or religion. The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates to us that our economic, political and social systems can serve our needs and purposes only when they induce us to cooperate at the appropriate scale.
6. The Covid-19 shows us how terrible it really is to waste our lives, embroiled in endless battles for wealth and status and power. How terrible it really is not to recognize the value in the people around us – not just our family and friends, not just colleagues and fellow citizens, but also complete strangers. How terrible it is not to give our lives meaning – every hour of every day – by honoring the sacredness of life and according all living things the respect, sensitivity and care that they deserve.
7. The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates to us the value of freedom – the freedom to move, to be with those we love, to live in dignity and security – for ourselves and for those around us, from our loved ones to the refugees and the downtrodden.
8. Above all, it shows us the importance of recognizing the true purpose of all our businesses and economies, our political parties and governments, our local civic associations and our international organizations, our conventions and ideologies, and all our other systems: namely, to serve human needs and purposes.
The needs and purposes not just of individuals, but of societies and of the natural world, in pursuit of not just our individual, self-interested payoffs, but in pursuit of all our overarching communitarian goals that are articulated in our religious and cultural aspirations. In most of our endeavors, we are interdependent. One individual cannot succeed without the cooperation of others. We cooperate at many different scales – local, regional and national. The Covid-19 pandemic highlights the danger of ignoring our interdependence and the importance of global cooperation. It shows us with crystal clarity that all of humanity is in the same boat. Since the virus can be defeated somewhere only when it is defeated everywhere, it shows us the terrible folly of pretending that we can achieve security in isolation, within the borders of our nation, culture, class or religion. The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates to us that our economic, political and social systems can serve our needs and purposes only when they induce us to cooperate at the appropriate scale.
( The author is a teacher at Govt High School Brakpora Anantnag. Views are his own)