Words in Service to Justice

Words wash over me. Pictures pierce my heart.

There is nothing I can say that has not already been said. I’m grateful to all who express their heartfelt thoughts about the cause and effects of this raging tragedy called RACISM.

Some of the words that I’ve heard or read tell a story that has been told too often and yet still needs to be told.

Finally a turning point

 Catalyst for change

 Voices of the unheard

 Mobilize, organize, vote

 Ignited a flame

 Same issues—different trajectory

 Nation we ought to be

 Acknowledge the anger and hostility

 Broken, chaotic, destructive reality

 Gaslit by reality

 Direct action—spiritual impulse

 Psychic toll

 Ambient racism

 Outrage

 Mixed emotions

 Reluctant sense of hope

 Little ray of hope

 More than isolated events

 Racism, white supremacy, police brutality

 Law and order

 “non-violence works in tandem with threats of potential violence” (Carvel Wallace)

 “Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible—even if you’re choking on it—until you let the sun in. Then you see it everywhere.” (Kareem Abdul-Jabar, op ed in the LA Times, May 30)

Whether we see the universal activism spawned by the image of a police officer with his knee on the neck of George Floyd until he dies as a reaction to the inhumanity of the act or an imperative for America’s reckoning about racism, the words written and spoken by those outraged are, indeed, in service to justice.

The Pain and Pride of Coming Through Hardship

One fact that we can all agree on is that we are in an economic and financial downturn with Depression-level unemployment rates triggered by the pandemic. In addition to the current hardships for so many, a consequence of this experience will be how it changes the way many will view their relationship with money now and on into the future. For example, it’s not hard to imagine that your future children or grandchildren will rationalize your excessive frugalness as a result of your experience during this time.

My mother told me many stories about how hard it was for her and her parents during the Great Depression. I remember one being especially sad. My mother was five years old in 1929 – a year often associated with the Great Depression – and my grandparents were a struggling young couple.

They had been sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta before the Depression and had done well enough to move from the farm to the city of Clarksdale. Their relatives had done well in finding jobs in the city and my mother’s parents had high hopes that they would also find jobs. They were eager to put farm work behind them.

Their plan was to live with a relative until they could, so to speak, get on their feet. Shortly after their move to Clarksdale, the depths of the Depression were being felt by the entire country and jobs that black people used to be able to get were now occupied by white people. When my grandfather couldn’t even get a job with the Works Progress Administration (WPA), he “pulled cotton” to make just enough money to buy food.

When the weather became too cold to pull cotton, my grandfather became resigned to the fact that he would have to find a farm where he could once again share crop. My mother said it was the “dead of winter” and they set out for the countryside walking and carrying all their belongings.

After knocking on a lot of doors, they found an old lady who was living alone. She welcomed them to move in with her. Shortly after moving in with the old lady, my grandfather became ill. He had always been asthmatic, but this illness was more severe than asthma alone. They were way out of town where there were no doctors and even if there were a doctor near, they had no money with which to pay.

My mother said that my grandmother tried everything she could to try to get my grandfather’s fever down and help him breathe. Indelible in my mother’s mind is what my grandmother did: She made a salve of Sloan’s liniment and Vick’s salve and rubbed it all over his chest, and then she covered his chest with a flannel cloth. She made a tea out of cow chips and the liniment and held him up so he could drink it while it was very hot. Then she gave him some pills called Red Devils.

While my grandfather was sick, the family ran completely out of food. The old lady they moved in with told them that there was a well-to-do farmer down the way who might help. My mother and grandmother went to the farmer for help, telling him about my grandfather’s illness and how, as a consequence, they had no food. The farmer gave them some food and told them that there was a corn field behind where he was living. The people who had planted the corn had moved away and did not gather it before winter. The farmer said they were welcome to gather all the corn they wanted and, if they shucked it and brought it back to him, he would take it to the mill and exchange it for food and other things they needed.

After wrapping their feet in grass sacks for extra protection, my mother, about six years old now, braved the snow and ice with my grandmother to return to the farm where the corn had not been harvested. They pulled enough corn to fill a large cotton sack that was so heavy that they had to drag it back to the house. My mother remembered that when they got back to the house freezing, she helped her mother lay the ears of corn on the floor in front of the fire so they could dry. After the corn dried out, they shucked it, put the ears in the big sack and took it to the farmer before filling the sack again with as many ears of corn as they could drag.

My mother said they felt lucky to have access to the corn and to be favored enough that the farmer would take the corn to the mill because some people were literally starving. The old lady with whom they were living had grown some turnip greens and, when she was ready to cook them, she had no lard. Ever resourceful when desperate times called for desperate measures, she used Blue Seal Vaseline as a substitute. My mother told me that they declined the greens cooked with Vaseline, but her mother did accept the turnip roots.

When my mother would tell me this anecdote about how tough times were, I could see in her face and hear in her voice both pain and pride. Pain in recalling the struggles so many people suffered then and the following many lean decades they endured after the Great Depression was “officially over.” Pride at the fact that she and her family had come through these times, and, in her mind, the better for it because their survival was proof of their faith and resilience.

If there is one common piece of advice survivors of the Great Depression might recommend, it is to always seek the long view when disruptions appear catastrophic in the microscopic lens of the moment lest we overinterpret the future impact of our experience and accept a destiny not worthy of our potential.

Race in the United States, as Reflected in the U.S. Census – A Glacial Rate of Change

Some say that demography is destiny. In the United States, race is destiny.

Clearly evidence of a racist social construct, “race” depends on who you are in the politics of government. From the time of the Constitutional Convention, the matter of race has been central to the decennial census practice. The census was put into place to assure proper representation and is today connected with the distribution of nearly $1 trillion in federal funding for myriad programs.

At the inception of the practice of taking the census, there was shameful, self-serving political debate about whether or not enslaved people would be counted as persons or property for the sake of levying taxes and determining representation. The compromise that stood for nearly a century was to count those who were enslaved as three-fifths of a person. Without a doubt, in the minds of these leaders all men are not created equal.

While enslaved persons were not counted as full persons for the sake of the census, indigenous persons were not counted at all. In fact, according to data collected by census-takers, the United States consisted of only white and black people for its first 100 years.

This was in part because census-takers determined race rather than allowing individuals to self-identify. In so doing, white people were recorded as homogeneous in their whiteness, while black people were recorded as free or enslaved. Additionally, black people could be recorded as mixed, with crude terms used to attempt to determine just how many drops of black blood a light-skinned black person might have. As late as 1930, the “one-drop rule” was included in instructions to ensure that interracial persons were determined to be black, “no matter how small the percentage of [black] blood.”

While the questions and language have slowly evolved since the first U.S. Census was taken in 1790, they always seem to lag behind the times, never fully reflecting the current reality and individual preferences of the people. It was not until 1960 that individuals could identify their own race, and it was not until the year 2000 – more than 200 years after the first census – that the questionnaire included a “multiple-race” option by which one could better reflect one’s identity by selecting more than one race. If the census is the marker, this America evolves century by century.

As part of this glacial evolution, for the 2020 U.S. Census, respondents are asked to identify not only their race but their “racial origins.” Thinking positively about this change, disaggregating the data collected on race and ethnicity theoretically has the potential to create a picture of the multiple diversities that make up this complex nation. Understanding the history of the political ends served by census questions, however, raises some understandable concerns.

censusThe question about “racial origins” (whatever that means) would seem easier on the surface to respond to for some groups than it is for others. For example, respondents who identify as “white” are given the following examples to choose from for racial origins: German, Irish, English, Italian, Lebanese, Egyptian, etc. (Despite this seeming simplicity, however, one does wonder whether the homogeneity with which the census has treated “whiteness” to date, might still give people in this category pause in being asked to identify origins of which they may not be aware or ever given much thought to.)

Asian or Pacific Islanders are given specific checkboxes instead of being asked to write in choices from examples, unless selecting “Other Asian (Pakistani Cambodian, Hmong, etc.)” or “Other Pacific Islander (Tongan, Fijian, Marshallese; etc.).”

It starts getting more complicated with those who indicate that they are “Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish.” While the first part of being able to further identify as Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano; Puerto Rican; Cuban; or another origin {Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian, Guatemalan, Spaniard, Ecuadoran, etc.) is easy, then comes the question about race. The U.S. Census Bureau argues that Hispanic origin is not a race and that those of Hispanic origin must also be specific about their race. It’s expected that indignation and confusion will abound.

I empathize with those who affirm “Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin,” and then face a question about race. If I affirm “Black or African American” for my identity and then see these sample choices for origin—African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somali, etc.—I am inclined to write “not applicable.” It makes no sense for me to indicate “African American” as my racial origin because I’ve already checked that box for race. Also, specifying the entire continent of Africa as an origin is not in alignment with others from the continent who can select from specific countries within the continent as their origin. For my racial origin, it makes sense to me that I would write in “Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama,” because, as I discovered in exploring census data from the 19th and 20th centuries, my family’s known history goes back no further than these three Southern states.

Twist, turn, bob, and weave as it may, America’s shameful history keeps showing up. This time it surfaces when there is an attempt by the federal government to tease out the diversity among people who live in the United States. What’s more, the ever-changing demographic questions for all the racial categories except “white” raise important questions related to data meant to be used as a comparator over time. Sadly, evolution from racism is, indeed, a slow process in this America.

 

 

In the Here and Now

Waxing nostalgically or having flights of fancy are easier for me than being in the here and now. This is not a new phenomenon; I discovered this about myself when I first started meditating. As soon as I closed my eyes and began to breathe deeply, my mind would find a memory, devise something to plan, or flash in my mind someone or something about which to worry. Holding my mind in a steady state of the present without thinking for even a minute or so took tremendous effort, which decreased my level of relaxation, and thereby defeated the very purpose of my meditation.

I decided to do some Internet searching on meditation and came across an Everyday Health article about how more Americans are meditating. Results of a CDC survey about the overall health of Americans taken in 2012 and 2017 showed that there was an increase in alternative therapies like yoga, chiropractic care, and meditation by both children and adults. This caused me to reflect on why I adopted meditation as a practice. It was about a year after my 30th birthday. While some people have a hard time accepting their age around 40 or 50 years of age, I had my crisis when I turned 30 years old. I became hypersensitive about how I looked as if I were just getting acquainted with my face and body. I wanted to change everything.

I was working as a counselor at a predominantly White community college where, in addition to a workload similar to my colleagues, I was, by default, the resident problem-solver for all issues involving Black students. Personally, I was figuring out how to begin work on a doctorate degree while working fulltime and doing what a fulltime wife and mother who stayed home did for her family. At the same time, my husband and I had made a decision to go out on a thin and dangerously wobbly financial limb to buy a house.

In my mind, I could handle this and more, but my body evidently was not as strong-willed, My stomach ulcers got so severe that the doctors said no medicines would help –I was the only person who could cure them. At this point, I was willing to try anything. Alternative therapy was a last resort; I chose meditation.

I participated in the required rituals and sessions and was given a mantra to use in my daily meditations. From that time on, I’ve been faithful in my efforts. My family has always been supportive, giving me quiet time and space to practice. I have no excuse, then, for my inability to be in the here and now with my mind void of all thoughts for an extended period of time.

It is not being “mindful” that I have a problem with, as I go about doing things thoughtfully, paying attention to all the qualities and aspects of any given task. I relish the time to sit quietly and focus on my feelings, my surroundings, and what’s happening with my body sensations. But for 45 years, I’ve struggled to clear my mind of all thoughts for just a few minutes in order to meditate to my standards. While I’m meditating, I’m often thinking about how poorly I’m doing it because I’m not totally in the here and now.

I once told my grandfather I didn’t know how to spell something he wanted me to write for him. He responded, “Don’t worry about spelling it, just write it down.” Similarly, even as I’m writing this critique of my efforts to meditate, my thoughts are on a different frequency, urging me to stop judging and evaluating how well I’m meditating and just meditate.

Too often, we let the perfect be the enemy of the good, immobilizing us from simply doing what needs to be done. It is only in the doing – whether that be taking a first step or continuing in something – that we grow and hone our practices.

As Strange as it Seems: Dreams

Paintography, Photograph combined with watercolour paintingFrom time immemorial people have been fascinated by dreams. They want to know what they mean. Centuries ago, those who interpreted the dreams of monarchs were in high demand.  Decisions that had profound impact on history could have depended on the subjective interpretation of a single dream.

I’ve always thought that the word “dream” is a misnomer for the images our subconscious creates during our sleeping hours. “Dreaming” seems to connote imagining something really wonderful that you wish would happen, whereas my dreams tend to be scary, nonsensical, and/or downright crazy. In fact, more often than not, I’m  happy to wake up and find that my real life is better than the story I experienced during my sleeping hours.

I’ve been in a number of discussions about what purpose dreams serve. No one has had the definitive answer, but I recall a time when dreams had a practical financial purpose if one had a dream book. Dream books were just as common in some homes in our neighborhood in Chicago as the Bible because they attached numbers to those parts of the dream that you remembered. These “lucky” numbers would then be used to place a bet as part of “the numbers game,” an illegal lottery played by people who needed a money miracle. It didn’t matter if four out of five times the numbers played didn’t win—there was always the possibility that the dream was prophetic and the people who published the dream book were modern-day prophets.

Sometimes when I’ve had a long, intense dream and clearly remember all the disjointed vignettes, I try to make the dream useful in working out something in my waking life. Between September 2010 and April 2015, I recorded some of the dreams I remembered. The stay-at-home directive gave me time to pull out the notebook and read what I wrote about these dreams. Here is the transcript of one of the helpful “dreams”:

I stepped onto the escalator with people in front and behind me. For some reason, I sat down on one of the steps of the escalator. I had a small shopping bag with me that seemed to contain food. The bag became caught in the escalator stairs behind me. As I turned to try to dislodge the bag, a loud, impatient voice shocked me with, “GET UP!”

I was doubly shocked when my alarm went off simultaneously for me to, in fact, get up.

Another dream in which I was at a NASPA conference planning committee with challenges that truly only could be dreamed up hardly needed an interpreter with special discerning powers to figure out what was causing me anxiety at the time.

Going to bed anticipating dreaming and planning to remember them may be a way to feel some sense of control. As strange as it seems, maybe dreaming during times when one’s sense of control is next to nil could be a way to relieve toxic stress and practice some psychological maintenance.

Take a Chance

Journal Entry—Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Attended Reception for The Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor to hear reflections on her life in retirement, her current judicial and civic activities, and her husband’s struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease. She was introduced by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Event was sponsored by the Women’s Forum, Washington, DC.

Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O'Connor

From HarperCollins book cover: Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World.

What an unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime experience for me to be in a room in the Supreme Court building with the first and second women to ever serve on the court—Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, respectively.

In her introduction, Justice Ginsburg said that the best advice Justice O’Connor gave her was: “Waste no time on regret or resentment—just get the job done; gain visibility and put on an impressive show.”

What is the job we want to get done?

 How will we go about gaining visibility in order to get that job done, and in what arena?

 What might our impressive show look like, and who would need to be impressed in order to get the job done?

 Will we take a chance on creating a new idea of who we are in order to live our life in service to what really matters to us?

Tomorrow Will Be Another World

We’re still in shock—and will be for a while. While there is no avoiding the effects of the pandemic of 2020, we should feel proud of ourselves because we have been exceptional in finding ways to adapt to what we hope is a temporary reality. We gamely say that what we’re experiencing now is “the new normal,” while hoping with all our heart that this is not true. We always hated clichés about how things always work out, and now we use them as salves to soothe ourselves and one another. We must admit, though, that coping with the present has given us some respite from thinking about the future.

But we know that—like a fast-moving train approaching the next station—we can’t hold back the future. Imagine this train as an old-fashioned one with conductors and porters responsible for accommodating passengers. On this imaginary train there is no hierarchy: conductors and porters all work together according to their strengths.

Wisely, the conductors and porters on this old-fashioned train understand that they need to create different teams to work on different aspects of their dilemma:

  • The first team focuses on adapting what always has been done to the current situation in order to make the transition as smooth as possible.
  • The second team creates best- and worst-case scenarios of what they may find when they reach the next station.
  • The third team has the biggest challenge. They are charged with creating a vision for a preferred future—a future that evolves from impossible dreams and high aspirations.

It is critical that this third team has the capacity to see the positive in the midst of all that seems to have gone wrong. They will use the cataclysmic disruption as leverage to make the kinds of fundamental change that they dared not dream of making in the past. In order to meet the realities of a future in which there are no models, they will make the assumption that processes and structures that led to equilibrium and success in the past are not useful in the new context.

Like us now, this team on the imaginary train barreling into the future, realizes that previous warnings and exhortations about not creating change pale in comparison to the opportunity this pandemic has given us to pursue the “what ifs,” the “why nots”, and the “this may sound crazy, buts…”.

It is possible, whatever our endeavor, that the 2020 pandemic—our ultimate test—is the catalyst that unleashes our creativity and ingenuity in pursuing a vision that will help us create the tomorrow that will be another world.

Ideal qualities of humanity on display

Being forced to stay put these days reminds me of the East Coast Blizzard of 1996, when Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia were declared disaster areas after more than two feet of snow was dumped over one weekend. After being snowbound a couple of days and optimistically believing our local weather forecasters that the storm was over, a lot of us ventured out to work with walls of snow surrounding us.

The bad news is that we were all sorry we had left the haven of our snowbound houses because many of us had to struggle mightily to get back home. The good news is that what I witnessed during my commute warmed my heart and gave me hope about us as a people. I was so moved by what I saw happening that I journaled the experience.

My commute required a metro subway and a train. On the first leg of my trip home to the Maryland suburbs after a fool’s errand to get to work in DC, a woman near me on the metro was squeezed in so tightly that she was almost sitting on a man’s lap while holding on to a stabilizing pole. When she apologized, he responded that he understood that she could not help it. (It was not possible for him to get up and give her the seat.) After about a minute, the woman who was hanging on just above the gentleman’s lap turned, smiled, and introduced herself to the gentleman and the woman sitting next to him. They smiled back, introduced themselves, and began to make small talk. They chatted easily as if they were at a social event. They were of different races and, judging from the manner in which they were dressed, probably did not live in similar neighborhoods.

Although we were patient as we invaded one another’s personal space, we were aware that the metro was taking much too long to move ahead from the station. After a while, there was an announcement regarding mechanical problems, which seemed to serve as a signal for people to settle in and begin conversations with one another. Chatting seemed to help because the crowding was paralyzingly tight. No one could move. As can be the case when there is a captive audience, some joker began shouting off-color jokes, and one brave passenger yelled that we didn’t want to hear what he had to say and that he should pipe down. As the joker quieted, the conversations resumed.

To our great disappointment, there was another announcement after some time that the train was out of service. With a collective groan we prepared to offboard. While we had been inside the disabled metro, more people had come to the platform and it was jam-packed when we squeezed off the metro. There was no room to push back behind the caution line, and many of us were dangerously close to the edge of the platform. Incoming trains were as packed as the one from which we had disembarked. Needless to say, none of us on the platform were getting on any of the approaching trains.

Did I mention how cold it was? It was freezing.

As I stood squeezed so tightly that I could not turn, I heard a woman’s voice somewhere behind me yell out the question, “Does anyone know how far we are from Union Station?” Several people yelled back that it was the next stop just four or five blocks. The woman who asked the question said, “It might be better to walk if we have to count on getting a train here.” Several people, as if they knew her, said that it was much too cold to walk the distance. Not facing the woman, I yelled out that I’d be glad to share a taxi if I could get back to the exit. She said, “Sure, let’s do it!”

My fellow commuters twisted and turned in their heavy coats, shifted their brief cases and bags, and helped me push through the crowd to the escalator where my anonymous taxi partner waited. We gamely took the escalator up out of the station, feeling proud of ourselves for our initiative.

When we emerged from underground, we were in a deserted Judiciary Square. We looked at one another and commented on how quiet it was. It was eerily like being in a ghost town – there were no cars nor people, but there was a whole lot of snow. It didn’t take long for us to realize that there would not be a taxi on these unplowed streets.

As we trudged through the deep snow, we realized that we didn’t know what direction to walk to get to Union Station. She was from Virginia and I was from Maryland, and we’d only taken trains to our destinations in DC. We hadn’t walked too far before a lone man passed us, and we asked directions to Union Station. We were so relieved when he pointed us in the right direction.

We walked single file, encouraging and helping one another as we slipped and fell a number of times on the way. We finally arrived at Union Station and embraced warmly, wishing one another safe travel home before parting for the second portion of our journeys on our respective trains.

Finally getting on a train, I didn’t mind the newest delay as a result of ice on the tracks. Just as before, I witnessed people spending the time in community. Two women sitting opposite one another struck up a conversation and realized that they both worked for the same large communications corporation. They talked about their career paths. A man I thought to be in the military said to the woman next to him, “You see that hat that woman up front is wearing? My daughter has one just like it.” He went on to tell this stranger a funny story about his daughter, who he described as an archaeologist who was beautiful and a really fine human being, just like her mother.

I listened to these conversations and was heartened because these people did not take their frustration out on one another. I was amazed at the amount of camaraderie among a diverse group of strangers. Although it was not a wise decision for any of us to have attempted the commute during this record-breaking blizzard, this experience was a break from being snowbound and isolated, and it was an opportunity to actually look at one another directly and engage one another in a basic human-to-human exchange. If I had to sum up the collective attitude, it seemed to be that all were of one mindset: “We’re all in this together, and there is no one to blame. Everybody is doing the best they can.”

The history that I want to recall is that disasters – regardless of the degree or kind – often pull people together in a manner that displays our ideal qualities of humanity. Like no other experience, disasters can promote a feeling of community and common identity in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Change: From the Ordinary to the Catastrophic

swaying sunflowers

It’s a Monday morning and a great day to begin a new exercise routine. After an hour-and-a-half of stretching and strength-building at home, I’m ready for a nice walk. I feel great and decide to take a new route. Stretched out in front of me on a slight incline is a new sidewalk flanked by small delicate sunflowers swaying in the breeze. As I pass others, some walking their dogs, either I or they walk into the street in order to increase the space between us. After an exhilarating experience, I return home feeling revived by the fresh air and sunshine. All is right in my world.

As I put my foot on the first step to go to my front door, I spontaneously scream in pain and grab the handrail as my knee buckles under me. With my eyes tightly shut, I just hang there, moaning in pain and wondering what happened.

This comparatively ordinary moment comes to mind when I read how some of the people affected by COVID-19 describe change:

“So much has changed so quickly . . .”

“Everything has changed in a manner of minutes—seconds”

“. . . changes so sudden that there is no time to adapt”

When life changes in an instant, we can’t consciously think about dichotomous options of fighting to keep things as they were or adapting to the change. What we do usually just evolves as we’re forced to acquiesce to the conditions in which we find ourselves.

We wait.

We adapt.

We hope.

Up close and personal…

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.