By Albiona M. Rakipi
We are all connected, and COVID-19 is a manifestation of this idea.
Even as someone who works with young children — regularly exercising patience and calm — I, too, am feeling the same panic and anxiety as others around the world. During this time, I have observed my internal dialogue: I am scared. I don’t know what will happen. How will this virus affect me? Will I be fine because I am under 60 and healthy? How do my choices impact others? I came to the realization — as quickly as the coronavirus spread — the pandemic is not about me and my family, but about us and our human family. We are all connected, and COVID-19 is a manifestation of this idea.
The virus does not discriminate, and everyone is vulnerable. Though this time has been difficult, daunting, overwhelming and unsettling, I have gained vital lessons. In this uncertain time, the one certainty I know is this: If we allow it, COVID-19 can teach us. Here are four pivotal observations I have made during this time.
The Beauty of Selflessness
Selflessness is defined as: “To concern more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own.” Nothing personifies this act more than seeing first responders tirelessly show up day after day, putting themselves at risk for the sake of others. It is humanity at its finest. To say “thank you” is not enough. Countless stories are shared, illustrating their heroism. Grace is shown every time medical personnel hold the hand of an ill patient because their loved ones are not allowed in. Despite their exhaustion, they provide comfort to so many who are terrified due to all the unknowns. There was no handbook, or roadmap to follow—but their grace guided them through this precarious time. They have given us so much: When so many of us needed to lean, they stood strong and never wavered.
Leaders have risen in unlikely places
To the grocery store employees, delivery drivers, factory employees, mail carriers, and so many more, you are the unsung heroes during this time. To the teachers who came up with creative ways to reach your students, thank you. To the grocery store employees, your role is critical and essential for functional living. Thank you for continuing to show up each day, risking your own exposure so we can feed our families. My hope is that once this is all said and done, you never feel undervalued. I find myself asking, “What would we do if they decided not to come to work?” Your significance is immense, and the world knows it. If you entertained the idea of a pandemic a few months ago, would it dawn on you that these individuals would be critical to your well-being? Simply said, from the heart, I thank you!
The realization that less is more
This has been one of the greatest lessons for me. I find myself asking, “What do I really need?” Priorities are clear. Before the pandemic — though I didn’t see it this way — I was consumed with being a consumer. Shoes, purses, things mattered. No longer do they. They’re beautifully replaced by long walks outside, the sun shining through the window, sitting and enjoying simple conversations with loved ones and welcoming a slower pace where I can hear my thoughts. I’ve discovered so many buried gems in my every day. This time can be described as quieting the noise, with pauses allowed, to rediscover what I have always known. It is the small things that matter.
A Gratitude Practice
This has always been a part of my daily routine, though at this moment, it has carried me through. The research on practicing gratitude is abundant and clear: When we take a moment to say “thank you,” we allow ourselves to see the beauty in all that is. Each day is a gift, full of blessings waiting to be discovered. In the worst of times can we manage to say “thank you” for our breath? Can we see the beauty in the small things — spring’s arrival, the birds singing, the sound of laughter, connection to others despite being physically isolated? When thoughts of panic arise, or anxiety creeps in, I push pause and make space for gratitude. This practice renews my frame of mind each time I commit to it. An offering of thanks is a welcoming of grace. When your mind races —as it will during this time— breathe and find something, as small as it may be, and remind yourself of the blessings that surround you.
As isolating as this situation has been, I have never felt more connected to our human family as I do right now. Every morning I go outside for a run. As I pass by others, despite the physical distance, smiles and expressions of warmth are shared to communicate, “I am with you.”
Questions remain and uncertainties persist. I don’t know what the future holds or what normal will look like. My hope is that we can awaken to the idea of our connectedness and how every choice we make has an impact on us all. As the spiritual teacher and author Pema Chodron suggests, we can look at one another and realize, “I am you and you are me.” When the day comes and we leave this pandemic behind, can we make choices, less about I and more about us? To my global family, I leave you with this: May you be safe, may you be healthy, may you be happy, and may you live with ease.
Albiona Rakipi has 20 years of experience working with children and families as an early childhood educator and currently as a speech and language pathologist at the Kaufman Children’s Center in West Bloomfield. She describes herself as a lifelong learner committed to the belief that there is more good in the world than there is bad.
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