Highly effective vaccines to protect against COVID-19 should soon be injected into hundreds of millions of arms worldwide, signaling — hopefully — the end to a global nightmare.
At the time of this writing, global cases number 59,462,304, while deaths total 1,402,667. In the U.S. alone, cases number 12,448,099, with 258,364 deaths. Each of those deaths represents a story to be told: a father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, brother, sister, son, daughter, niece or nephew whose life has been cut short.
We lament those individuals’ deaths, along with the businesses that have suffered due to restrictions put in place to control the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of those businesses, too, has a story to tell.
It’s difficult, as new, tighter restrictions are being put in place in Colorado and elsewhere because of a dreaded “second wave,” to reflect back on what we’ve experienced during this year from hell, full of death and divisive rhetoric. But we must begin to do so. Our losses have been immense, but the beauty we have seen has also been extraordinary.
We have seen that beauty in the dedication and humanity of our health-care professionals, who have been on the front lines of combating this threat, struggling in many cases with inadequate resources to preserve life at risk of their own.
We have heard the spirited howling of citizens at 8 p.m. on a summer evening, giving a primordial voice to their appreciation for those health-care workers.
We have seen the bravery of first responders fighting record-breaking forest fires, even amid a pandemic.
How many thousands of people have gone on to Nextdoor, Facebook or some other social network to offer to purchase groceries for the elderly or home-bound?
How many individuals have gone out of their way to support their local restaurants, retailers or nonprofits to help them through the downturn?
A sad scene, too, can be beautiful, as with family members spending time with nursing-home residents through a closed window, barred from physical contact but unbeaten in their determination to show love.
Yes, there has been beauty during these desperate times.
For me, the most poignant memory of 2020 will be a poem written by a Capuchin Franciscan brother, Richard Hendrick of Ireland. The poem, “Lockdown,” was shared on Facebook March 13. It acknowledges the fear, panic buying, isolation and death but also hope, love and life. It reads, in part:
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
When the time comes to look back on the COVID-19 pandemic, I will remember this poem most of all — more than the endless Zoom meetings, working from home in sweatpants, face masks worn to buy simple groceries, the challenges of isolation, struggles to run a business remotely, lack of contact with family, planned trips canceled.
I will remember those who have gone out of their way to help others, and I will contemplate those individuals, businesses and nonprofits that I can help more. I will remember business associates on Zoom with cats on their laps, dogs in the background, little children coming into view, or getting a kiss good-bye from a loved one. Such quaint occurrences reflect a communal spirit that, “We’re all in this together.”
I will remember that which should be remembered: beauty, humanity, selflessness.
Again, from Brother Hendrick:
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or firstname.lastname@example.org.