the current COVID crisis… sort of…

Many of our posts here have a definitive beginning, end, and bottom line point — sort of as if, when complete, it’s all wrapped up in a nice, neat, figurative bow. This will be no such post.

I want to talk about COVID-19… the vaccine, masks, mandates, our individual and collective response. Let’s face it; it’s messy. It’s also hard for the masses to talk about respectfully. 

One thing I know for certain is that Covid is still a thing. It is still affecting us… what we do, how we act, how we interact. There are so many questions that continue to swirl…

What stage are we in? … are we still in a pandemic? … or in an endemic now?

What’s our end game? … complete annihilation of the virus? … or reducing it to an endemic?

And what’s with the messaging? … why do the words/behavior of the administrations (current and past), the CDC, and FDA not always agree? … are there political motivations in play?

Part of the problem, it seems, is that we can’t agree on even the questions above. So let’s attempt to approach this from a different angle… We have a crisis.

Let me be more specific: we have an empathy crisis. We’re selective in whom we choose to actually extend empathy — to those arguably most often associated with Covid…

… to those who are sick… The U.S. has experienced almost 43 million cases of Covid. Near 700,000 have died. I can only imagine. A dear friend who wrestled with it called it nothing short of a “literal hell”; she said it was like an elephant sitting on her chest for three weeks. True, the fatality rate is less than 2%, but every person has a story, and every story matters to God. How heartbreaking indeed.

… to our friends in the healthcare industry… Many hospitals are overloaded. There’s a shortage of workers. More continue to quit. As a trusted professional shared with me, some quit because they’re downright exhausted. Some quit because they’re exhausted and frustrated; they’ve lost faith in the system; they’ve lost faith in humanity — in people trusting the science, doing what they believe is proven to be wise. “We all want to do good,” she said. “We want the healthcare system to be able to flex and be able to deal with this. But it’s not.”

Then there’s the friend who is routinely called in for extra nursing shifts in the nearby, very full NICU, and at the end of those long, draining shifts, is often confronted by protestors… Caution: soapbox comment coming… Why is it protestors always go after the wrong people? Protestors/activists seem to go after who’s easiest to attack — not necessarily who’s most responsible.

… to the vaccinated who are high risk… For those for whom the virus would be immediately life-threatening including friends and family for most all this is really hard. It’s scary… don’t other people see how their choice affects me?…. We don’t all have the same fears, but wisdom doesn’t make the unlike fears of another any less valid. So I’ll say it again: this is really hard.

… to the unvaccinated… (Remember: we said this was messy.) I listened to another intelligent friend share his family’s choice not to receive the vaccine. It’s not that they don’t believe in immunity. It’s not that they don’t love and care for their community. They are pained by the thought that countless times they’ve been told they are a “threat” to society — that because of them “millions are going to die.” That’s the farthest thought from their mind. They don’t question the efficacy of the vaccine; rather, they question the speed at which this was produced and thus its safety. They want immunity, too; they simply, genuinely believe that natural immunity is safer than manufactured immunity. They are also confused at why the conversation is so focused on the vaccinated vs. the unvaccinated, omitting the believed even greater effectiveness of natural immunity.

Let’s be honest; it’s easier to give empathy to some people more than others. Have you noticed the number who have offered mockery instead? Or anger instead of empathy? But what if solution actually began with empathy? What if truth trumping conspiracy was jumpstarted by empathy? What if we recognized that relationship and conversation are healthier and more productive when we choose empathy? Empathy doesn’t mean agreement, friends; empathy means we work to understand.

Writes columnist and Intramuralist favorite, David French: “… Becoming empathetic does not mean that we forsake the search for truth. In fact, it can often empower us and motivate us to seek greater knowledge and insight. It means, however, that we shouldn’t prioritize our fallible and frequently-mistaken perception of the truth over the humanity and experience of the person before us.

Even if we’re dealing with something as simple as ‘vaccines work,’ or ‘a vaccine likely would have saved his life,’ the person who lacks empathy is often stunningly ignorant of another person’s heart or motivations or the full context of their lives. There is so much they don’t know.”

There’s so much we don’t know, friends. What if we got that? What if we were less selective? 

Hence, no nice, neat, figurative bow.