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The Upside of COVID-19

Opportunity awaits us all.

Please see the piece written below from a friend (not an emergency manager) of mine. You might call it his reflections on the coronavirus and the issues and circumstances of our time. There is the hidden opportunity amidst all the hubbub of the virus and our nation's failure to collectively address it at the national level. That leaves us a huge opening to do our individual parts. As Phil points out, let's take advantage of that opportunity.

COVID 19 — The Upside

Socially, there has been change in the last few months in the effect of our choices about being with others and the potential consequences of our decisions. Some people, dissenting from "best available" medical recommendations, are not distancing from others and not wearing, contrary to what the greater majority of us are doing. The reasons for the former choices are likely multiple — a sense of infringement of deemed Constitutional rights, enjoyment of taking risks, a sense of immunity from the virus, need/desire for attention, and even disbelief in the facts and information available about the virus and the worldwide impact it is having.

In this current context, it is easy to be critical of the above potential explanations for defiance. However, if introspective and honest, my sense is that we all, in some contexts of our lives, make choices of potential negative impact upon our own lives and the lives of others — and choices beyond the obvious ones, such as smoking; excessive drinking; using illegal drugs and even over-using legally, readily available drugs.

The bottom line is that many of us believe we are in self-control or at least most of us like to think we are. Yet, if such is the case, who of us would choose cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and/or any one of the diverse number of other serious debilitating medical conditions, ones that can sometimes even be quickly fatal. And, every day, if not us, people we know are diagnosed with one or more of them. And, there’s also the issue of random accidents and the potential for being victim of random acts of violence, seemingly by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Right now it seems that some people are choosing blindness and deafness. In fact, such states of being are increasingly being blamed upon specific individuals and groups as to why COVID-19 got out of control from its get-go. Yet, with that being said — and perhaps with some accuracy — another aspect of our humanness is that we all tend to want/seek to find a scapegoat for problems and conditions — e.g., if only so-and-so would have done (or not done) such-and-such, things would be different/better.

I believe this COVID situation makes for a time and an opportunity for us all to look deeply within ourselves. 

We all know that there always have been challenges and struggles, including via wars, famines and other epidemics and diseases of all kinds. And we also know that, as people, we tend to resist and act out against change that is contrary to our own perceptions of what is in our own interest; that among groups of all kinds, there is a tendency to struggle for dominance, power and control; that greed and self-centeredness can underlie everything from politics to personal relationships.

Right now, despite all its unsought challenges, my sense is that COVID-19 is giving many of us the gift of extra time; time in which we have the chance to do some personal (re)assessing and (re)committing, including as to what is the greatest reasons for hope and trust. My belief is that it is love; including in the sense of compassion, caring and commitment to helping and supporting others within the maximal extent of our own individual knowledge and core abilities and individual energy capacity.

There are many resources available for expanding our awareness, knowledge and understanding of the needs of others and how we can support systems and organizations offering care and enrichment to them — and even to ourselves — e.g. in helping us to further open our own minds, hearts, eyes and ears.

This is our new chance or chance to expand. Let’s go for it.

Written by: Phil Yates, 7/14/2020

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.