We Should Have Been Nicer for Much Longer
The day after my company shut down formal operations and sent us home to work remotely for an indefinite amount of time, calls coming into me sounded different. Before getting to the real question someone had, they asked, “How are you? Are you and your family alright?” They meant it. You could hear it in their voice.
That moment of human kindness gave me a minute to wipe out from in front of my face all the dust had been kicked up in our lives. I was frustrated, confused, and anxious. Soft-spoken words settled me down. As much as I needed them, I needed to give them. Every conversation was an opportunity to wish someone well. I took it.
When the world seems dark, kindness feels like comfort. It was good while it lasted.
We were all concerned about each other. We asked others if they were safe. We spoke with care. We found ways to lift someone’s spirits while staying a safe distance from them. We thanked service workers who didn’t get the luxury of staying in their homes. We brought food to people who were furloughed. We were nice. We were kind. We were human. It lasted a hot minute.
Almost 90 days ago our world changed and our hearts went with it. For the first time in a long time, we were united by a common bond. COVID-19 was spreading and we didn’t know what to do. We all shared the same feelings. We were confused and a little scared. We were on the brink of our jobs, economy, and lives being shot to hell.
We watched as Italy went under quarantine. We were touched and moved by videos of Italians on balconies with wide-open doors as they sang common folk songs everyone knew in a language that we didn’t understand.
It should have changed us. It should have shown us what we need to do to keep our humanity intact. It didn’t do any of that. It was a fleeting moment that felt good. Then it was gone.
Every day that went by we got more relentless, anxious, and annoyed. No one likes these feelings. So we replace them with others. What we chose was anger.
It’s difficult when you see death toll numbers climb every day, case reports escalate quickly, and unemployment to skyrocket and think to yourself that this isn’t all bad. There has to be some good but recognizing it feels oddly selfish and detached.
At the same time, finding one little shred of common good is what we need. Both hope and despair can sit in the same space if we understand the purpose they both serve. We just can’t let the despair push out the hope.
The problem is that despair isn’t active. It comes and settles in. Burrows itself deep and doesn’t want to budge. It’s the anger that’s active. Anger pushes, shoves, tears, and rips and we let it happen.
I struggle with the idea that the concept of kindness isn’t sustainable. But, we’ve proven that it’s fleeting and it’s only a matter of time before we turn on each other like we’re nothing but a group of heathens out to smash Piggy’s glasses.
After a few weeks, I stopped hearing soft voices. Fed up, we looked for someone to blame, a place to lay our resentment. We stopped being patient and understanding. Standing in someone else’s shoes didn’t matter anymore.
Forgiveness, compassion, and grace flew out the window right behind “normal” life as we knew it.
I’m scared that we can’t get these things back. I’m scared that this is just how we live now. Groups of people embattled because we can’t possibly find a way to connect that is humane.
That little bit of hope that we could pull through this and come out stronger was what we needed. At least, I know it’s what I needed. I wasn’t ready to lose it.
We can do better than we did and we should have. We should have been able to make it last longer. We’re better than how we showed the world we can act. I’m disappointed in us.