I’m remembering previous times when everyone around me was frightened, but the scary thing was not up close and personal.
- During the first years of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, when we would hear the piercing siren sound, our teachers would direct us to quickly scramble under our tiny desks and to cover our head with our hands.
- When the rain became an electrical storm, our teachers would urge us to move quickly and quietly into the cloak room where our little coats were hanging on low hooks. I remember covering my face with whatever coat I was near.
- When I was at home and there was loud thunder and crackling lightning, my grandfather would turn out all of the lights, cover the mirrors, and tell us to be very quiet.
These were scary times, but they were not up close and personal.
It was the second month of my first semester in college and my roommate and I lay on our narrow beds facing one another listening to the radio and talking about what might happen because of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Would we die any moment because of what sounded like an impending nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union? We were frightened, but this was not up close and personal.
In October 2002, the “DC Sniper” randomly killed ten people and wounded four. Whether going to the grocery store, pumping gas, or walking on the sidewalk, there was fear that one could be gunned down any time without provocation or warning. I recall being so frightened that I actually did walk a zig zagging path down the sidewalk in DC in order to make it more difficult for the sniper to get a good shot. It looked crazy but it was a suggestion on how one might stay alive. Despite the generalized fear, this was not up close and personal.
Today, COVID-19 – or the Coronavirus – is up close and personal. The virus is likely the most impactful phenomenon that the people of the world have experienced, and its historic significance cannot be overstated. All of our lives are being touched in one way or another by the circumstances this pandemic has caused.
Because this pandemic is up close and personal, it is my hope that it will stimulate more compassion and selflessness when the first instinct might be something else.