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Inclusion Column

The Opportunity to Heal During a Pandemic

By Julie Ward, High School English Teacher

What has been startling in these past few weeks regarding the pandemic we are facing is how indiscriminately the virus attacks human bodies: bodies that live in wealth and poverty, bodies that live in one nation or another, bodies that practice Christianity or Hinduism or Islam. It has become abundantly clear just how similar we humans are—and that this similarity is through our own biological fallibility is okay. There is much possibility here.

Our interconnectivity rings true again when we look at the precautions the whole world is taking. I know that I am staying home out of safety measures for myself and my community, just like other individuals in Italy. I know that I am concerned about the well-being of my grandmother, just like other individuals in China. I know that my sister, a healthcare professional, is facing a shortage of resources and masks in her hospital, just like other healthcare professionals and other hospitals in India. The realization of interconnectivity at this moment could be as eerie as the virus itself. Or, it could be embraced.

The human race has a new enemy, and it is an enemy without a nation, without a religion, without an ethnicity. Is it possible that we use this moment in our history to heal the divisions among us? Today, we live in a world of echo chambers: anyone who expresses beliefs different than mine is no longer on my Facebook feed; the news corporation that doesn’t lean into my political preferences is not the news corporation I listen to; those who challenge my opinions are simply one “Block” click away. The possibility of growth becomes limited when we set ourselves in perpetual comfort zones. And the space between comfort zones has become a No Man’s Land, where dialogue and discourse do not happen, because, frankly, they do not need to.

But now, those deep lines in the Earth that we have made our trenches—keeping out our political opponents or our religious adversaries—cannot keep us safe from our new enemy. Polarization may rescue my ego, but certainly not my immune system. Now is the time to come out of our insulated worlds (metaphorically, not literally #StayAtHome) and see that every human needs the same thing right now: healthcare access, job security, anxiety relief. And we can see this as a great tragedy—or we can see it as the only war fought on Earth that has the potential to bring us closer together, not further apart. 

I look forward to the days when this has passed, mostly because I have hope that we, as people, will operate with the lessons learned today. We are only as healthy as our least insured global citizen. We are only as safe as our most exposed refugee. We are only as smart as the lessons we are willing to take. For me, my lesson is that perhaps among a global crisis, there can also be a global healing. A willingness to listen more attentively to one another, to acknowledge the biological/social/psychological parallels within all of us, and to act more compassionately towards those who we falsely believed were so different.