I’m not going to lie, we have seen some gorgeous days here in Vermont, and I have made sure to get out whenever possible to enjoy that special kind of joy from being surrounded by beauty. My best wish is that you are doing the same where ever you find yourself. Mostly I am joined by the wind in the leaves, the squirrels dashing amongst the undergrowth and the birds chatting about high above, but I also use my walking time to catch up on great music, and more often than not listening to one of the many podcasts I subscribe to. People have a lot to say these days, don’t they? haha, yeah, for sure me too… But this week one podcast really forced me to think deeply about the essential questions: What is our American Dream for 2020? What is our vision and our hope? What will propel us into an era of caring?
Andy Slavitt, in his October 12th podcast of In the Bubble, posed these three questions: “So do we have it in us still to sacrifice, number one? And number two, do we still have it in us to have compassion for one another? Number three, do you understand that freedom always comes with a price?” I must say these questions really made me think hard about my own behavior, and my fixation on all that I don’t get to do since COVID 19 hit. I wonder if America can sit with these questions, look at their own mememememememememe selves, and do something for the greater good. I seriously wonder if I can.
His guest, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, suggested, “Well, look, you know, I think President Kennedy’s inaugural embodied that notion. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Now there’s a thought to ponder for a while. A flash from the past but all too relevant for us today. What are you willing to do? Wear a mask? Social distance? Wash your hands? Be content to stay within your own bubble of friends and family? All might actually make a difference if you would, but you’re not sure?
I am not big on sacrifice. I want what I want when I want it. I love making plans and keeping them. I want stuff to go my way too. I buck authority. I want to make decisions. But surrounded by this brilliant blue I force myself to stop and consider how this moment might be just the most perfect for now. Maybe this isolation is allowing for something greater than I can even imagine? I get off my bike midway on the bridge to catch this scene, and breathe in these questions. Am I willing to pay a price for my freedom? Can I show compassion when I feel as jaded as I do? What am I willing to sacrifice for all of you?
Perhaps there are some gifts to find too, that is another considerations, starting with the gift of time. Much of my hustle and bustle has slowed since working from home, and the added time allow for moments to wander a bit longer. To listen to some nothing. I’m not suggesting that all the people suffering around the country is justified or that we should make allowances for our failed government response to avert much of this suffering. No, not that. But if you can for one moment stray from your worry and grief, if you can push the panic and anxiety aside, and stand in the slanting sunshine before day’s end, you just might let something roll off your back and onto the earth and settle into a moment of relief. There is no place for politics in this collective disaster, even though this does dominate headlines and Twitter feeds and the talking heads. Here is where we can join together and do what is fundamentally kind. That’s at the core of Kennedy’s question, isn’t it? What can you give to another? There must be a higher calling in times of crisis, and it doesn’t have to involve your god or mine, but it needs to include empathy, and a more compassionate response to all that has befallen our America.
As I listened further to this one podcast, Dr. Zeke Emanuel stated, “I do think the larger question, once we get our arms around COVID, the next large question is can we actually begin to do the structural reform of the American system so that we can return to our ideal of, you know, equal opportunity, social mobility and creating social policies that allow Americans to live their richest lives? I think that’s the bigger question. And that that I think, you know, we’re gonna have to rebuild the safety net. You know, you can’t have gig workers who have no benefits and just are left out. We can’t have this sort of Swiss cheese. So people don’t have childcare. People don’t have maternity leave. People don’t have sick leave. We have to rebuild that. We also have to get to, you know, frankly, universal coverage, something that you and I have both worked on. And Americans, you know, they widely accept that.”
Caring. Why not let that define our generation?