Guest Commentary: Back down the hill
At long last, we think we have passed the peak of COVID-19 cases in the United States; and are on the backside of the curve. The peak we have anxiously and relentlessly awaited – inside, isolated, and for many of us, with waning patience.
Let us all take a moment to reflect that the peak we have awaited, is not only the number of COVID cases, but also the number of our friends, family and community members that have lost their lives to this new, 21st century disease. It is a somber peak we have summited; stacks of dots representing bodies of loved ones, one-third again more than the number of U.S. soldiers killed in the Vietnam war. We should crest this ridge with determination and purpose, not joyful glee.
Rest assured, no one is more anxious to bug out of a house, and back into a larger, more communal world than I am. I do not sit still well, I rarely make it through an hour-long meeting in a chair; I cherish the Episcopal liturgy because it mandates we intermittently stand, kneel and walk. It’s not that I like to keep moving, it’s more like I will explode into a million tiny fragments if I sit still too long. Activity Deficient Disorder – I don’t know that’s a thing, but if it is, I have it. If not, someone should come and interview me and describe it. I can focus for a long time, I just can’t stay in one place to do it.
See how quickly and smoothly I made this about me? I think we all tend to do that a little too easily, and we could all help our world be better if we didn’t. If we spent a little more time thinking of others, and how our actions may impact them. Maybe this is a great time to ponder whether our needs are truly that, needs, or just desires couched as needs so we can justify fulfilling them.
We do need to foster the economy, we need to care for our mental and emotional health; we need community, we need school and work – we need a sense of normalcy. But, as we build our new future, let’s proceed with purpose, clarity, and caution. None of us have been through a pandemic, and our actions impact many more people than we imagine.
Much research has been conducted on the tragedies that befall mountain-climbing expeditions. Numerically, most happen after the summit – on the way back down the hill. The adrenalin rush is over, fatigue has set in, confidence is high; we are just plain tired and we make mistakes, often deadly ones.
As we pass what hopefully will be the summit of COVID, let’s all look to the future, decide how we want it to be, and craft our contributions with intention. Embrace a new normal in productive, kind and thoughtful ways.
If we are indeed on the way downhill – to the bottom, to our new normal, we have the longest, and most dangerous part of this trip in front of us still.
Let’s all be patient, remain close, but maintain distance, be careful, and wash our hands more than ever.
Dr. J. Bruce Neill is the director of education for the Sanibel Sea School. Part of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation family, its mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time.