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We are facing a pandemic to a degree we’ve never seen in modern times, and there is a whole range of emotions in trying to deal with this new reality. We can’t avoid being afraid. However, part of me can’t help but see the current events as a force for good.
All around the world, countries, companies, and individual people are making long-overdue changes now that we finally have the right incentive.
Collaboration – Before the virus struck, we were in a time of trade wars and growing nationalism. That’s all we could see. Yet when the virus started spreading, we realized how connected we were. Now, in a race to find a cure or at least a way to contain it, there are truly no boundaries. A common enemy forces everyone to be united, and in this case, it doesn’t require bombing anyone. Every step we take together truly helps the whole world.
Climate – Before this pandemic, some people said the craziest things when it came to addressing the climate crisis. Some said it was pointless to curb carbon emissions or limit the traffic of combustion cars until we convinced everyone to be vegetarian, blaming livestock as the driving force behind CO2 emissions. Yet when cities and regions went into lockdown, we started seeing satellite images of pollution dissipating in China. The Venice canals now have crystal clear water. Although this change will only be temporary, it’s surely going to be a new benchmark for what could be. From this moment on, it will be very hard to say we can’t do anything to reduce human impact on climate change.
Politics – Although far from perfect, we saw members from both sides of the political aisle in the US and multiple countries quickly passing legislation and emergency measures. Their cooperation reminds us of what could be done if the political systems more efficiently prioritized the needs of their citizens. Hopefully, this has lowered people’s tolerance for incompetence in politics and expectations will be higher going forward.
Giving back – The expectation of social responsibility from companies in the moment of crisis has forced many multinational organizations to do something. They’ve been spreading positive messages and using their resources for the greater good. Although some of them may have done it in an opportunistic manner, we can’t deny that many companies around the world put their core business goals aside to figure out a way to help. This is now the new normal.
Molding the new generation of leaders – Companies are donating their resources and requiring involvement from their entire staff. This means junior members of the organization witnessed how they are expected to react when a call for the greater good comes knocking. If this helps shape the attitude of the business leaders of tomorrow, we have already laid the foundations for a better future.
More time for your friends and loved ones – When you can’t leave your apartment, you suddenly have a lot of time on your hands. It makes you turn to your friends and loved ones. You make memories with your family. People, whether they live 15 minutes or five time zones away, are catching up with one another. We may be physically apart, but this will inevitably bring us closer.
A newfound appreciation for everyday heroes – It goes without saying that the emergency and healthcare workers are the heroes of this situation. The pandemic has also highlighted the merit of those who keep our “normality” running: grocery store employees, pharmacists, public transportation operators, delivery people, and all of those who allow society to function when governments are pushing social distancing to the max in order to avoid the collapse of the healthcare system. Hopefully, we will keep our sense of appreciation and respect once the crisis has passed.
Today I called my grandma . . .
My grandma is almost 90 years old and lives in Italy, a country where the COVID-19 mortality rate is the highest in the world. I have all the reasons to be concerned for her, yet during our call, she was the one worried for my family.
“I lived my life, I just want you to be healthy and happy,” she said with the genuine selflessness that grandparents have for their grandchildren. As we talked, she told me the story of growing up during the Second World War. She and her family had to lock themselves in bunkers for an extended period of time during the bombings. “You know, I can’t remember what we ate in the bunkers. There wasn’t much to eat when we were outside, I can’t imagine having anything to feed ourselves when we were inside.”
It was a reality check. I know that as dreadful as this virus is, it will never be as bad as fearing for your life during a war. That conversation gave me perspective: after the war, many countries grew from their ashes stronger than ever. We don’t really know how long this pandemic is going to last, and we can only hope that we are going to be able to slow it down enough to reduce the number of deaths. One day we’ll be able to get back outside and hug our friends, and hopefully then we’ll work together to make permanent the changes that we now know we are capable of making to build a better world.