COvID: Compassion vs. Ideology

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few months. Every once in a while I find myself covering my face with my hands, just at the thought of where we have landed. Not economically, not socially (although I do reminisce about concerts and basketball games with my friends as much as anyone). But as people. Humans. Communities. Neighbours.

We all giggled when we heard toilet paper was out of stock everywhere, but that quickly changed from a “haha that is hilarious” kind of giggle, to an uncomfortable and awkward giggle as the behaviour rolled over onto sanitizer, wipes, chicken! (I bet there are still freezers full in some houses) Who remembers the story of the guy that bought loads of sanitizer, and turned around to try to sell it for a profit? Or the guy that loaded his cart with beef, clearing out the store’s shelf?

As time has gone by, I’ve started to think about COVID differently. There is no doubt that it is out there, it is real, and many people have lost loved ones because of it. But what is also very clear, is that with every day that goes by, tolerance, and compassion, are slowly chipped away at. Instead of being for each other, more and more, we have become about ourselves. Not intentionally for the most part (I hope). But because we are left with ourselves. Our social cord is cut off. The interactions we need to be reminded that we are all connected are completely eliminated. Everything about COVID triggers fight of flight. And so we fight. With ourselves, with each other.

But, what if instead of getting triggered every time we see “COVID”, we use that to serve as a reminder, to be about people as much as we are about ourselves:

Compassion, Connection and Consideration

Versus

Ideology and individuality.

What if, it becomes a symbol of everything we should strive for. A reminder of what we need, together, to survive.

Because we do need each other to survive. Whether we realize it or not, we are connected, and our humanity and future are dependent on our collective effort to be positive and empathetic (now more than ever).

I beg you to reconsider. Take a deep breath, every time you feel the urge to argue, bash, shout. Treat everyone like they are your sweet grandmother, smile with your eyes, and above all, be kind.

I Hope You Act. And Reflect.

I have spent a lot of time over the past week reflecting. I moved to Canada in 1997, straight into grade eight. My school was very multicultural. Making friends was hard for me, only due to my introverted nature, which at the time was amplified thanks to the language barrier.

We moved from a country that for the most part was not multicultural. My interactions, from what I recall, were only with people born and raised in Iran. So I cannot for the life of me remember how I integrated into a multicultural community. I don’t know if I had questions, or if my parents had given us lessons about equality before we got here. I do remember I chose to write an essay about racism that year, yet I can’t remember what would have provoked that. I do remember being genuinely confused by the concept though. How can you possibly judge someone based on the color of their skin?

My friends welcomed me with open arms. I got along with everyone and within my group of friends, there was no discrimination. We were so young. Acceptance came naturally. It was pure and beautiful.

Reflection, especially on things like this, often raises a lot of questions that we don’t always have answers to. So I had to ask my mother, “Did you teach us not to judge others based on race?” She was initially confused by my question, concerned that I thought she had reservations about my group of friends. After some clarification, she finally said, “I taught you about people’s rights, no matter their race. I taught you not to judge, and to appreciate humanity”. I can look back at my life and see that this makes sense, and yet, I don’t remember these lessons.

We have a lot of work to do. Myself included. And despite educating ourselves to the best of our abilities, we will never understand. But I do hope that all along, we also take the time and explore the source of our thoughts, the root of our beliefs, and triggers for our actions. Whatever those might be, I hope we actually take the time to discover them, and adjust them so we behave from a place of compassion. I hope we recognize that we are all connected. That, as Desmond Tutu says, our humanity is caught up , is inextricably bound up, in others. And, maybe most importantly, I hope we ask of each other “how can I do better”.

Our words, our thoughts and actions, are rooted in something. A seed that was planted in the pure garden of our minds long ago, either flourishes into beautiful flowers or spreads like weeds. I hope you water those flowers daily and pull those weeds out from the roots.