When you look around, it is obvious our world is in crisis. In the western world, highways are empty and normally bustling businesses sit quiet. Grocery stores have been raided, and office computers relocated to kitchen tables. For many families and in many parts of the world, the situation is much worse. Bellies go empty and staff are forced to make impossible decisions about hospital admissions.
In the wake of it all, when I look around something else is also present, buried yes, but there nonetheless. Between the fear and continued disbelief, there are threads of something we don’t see often. Here, amidst a global pandemic, a human crisis, perhaps there are threads of a new kind of unity emerging.
For possibly the first time in human history, especially in recent history, it has been made obvious that so many people around the world share something in common. This commonality has not been as far-reaching in prior times of human crisis: not in war; not in a natural disaster; not in famine. In times of war, for instance, other humans in different geographic locations became our ‘enemies’. In the case of most natural disasters and famine, effects have been concentrated in a single region more intensely. A worldwide pandemic, at a time where technology connects us globally more than ever, presents the opportunity to create a wholly new depth of empathy that can come from shared struggle.
While it is true that experiences and impacts of the pandemic are varied; many have acted out in fear and hatred pointing fingers at others; and that other battles, crises and atrocities still continue in the world; simultaneously, as a collective human group we face a new enemy together: tiny droplets not visible to the human eye that harbour a fatal virus. Though this common enemy has generated a kind of destruction — of lives, economies, businesses, and more — it is also illuminating something hopeful.
A wave and smile from a neighbour, an evening surge of cheers and bells as we express our gratitude to front line workers, a grandchild on the street chatting with a grandparent as they stand safely on their balcony. Small moments of human connection are around us all the time, but somehow, whether because of a slowing down, a degree of shared consciousness, or the impact of forced separation, they are easier to see now. Not only can we see these moments of commonality at home, but we can see them in so many countries across the planet. For a moment, borders melt away and we are all simply humans learning how to survive in this new world.
My hope for this time is that we remember this commonality even when the virus and crisis have come to an end. My hope is that this feeling of unity and these tiny threads of connection, which are always around us but not always in focus, continue to be seen and felt long after the pandemic is over.
Contributed by Emily Knight
Photo by Margaux Bellott