Echoes Will Remain – and We are Changed by Them
First, A Caveat
Much of today’s blog is about how COVID has affected us, perhaps in unanticipated ways. But this is NOT to feed any illusions that the pandemic is over. Unless, of course, you live in Texas or Florida, where the governors have decided to ignore all the facts and declared themselves over it all.
We finally have a competent national government helping to inoculate almost 3 million Americans a day. This may help minimize the stupidity of declaring victory 10 yards from the finish line, but it will not eliminate it.
Something like 2,000 Americans still die daily. A lot of people will die in the near-term future because reckless officials tell them all is well So, all is looking better, but we are not done yet.
Still, it’s been a year and so not an inopportune time to reflect on how all this has changed us. Let’s take a look at some of those changes.
Programs like Zoom have been critical to keeping things running and keeping us in contact with each other. On the one hand, we all miss the physical proximity of being next to each other.
On the other hand, we would have been dramatically more isolated without such technology.
I spoke with friends the other day with whom I meet monthly, over the last year by Zoom. It occurred to them recently that they could use this to connect with people they have reached out to for years. They could do so in ways much better than email or phone calls. And so they have. Old friendships made new. Nice.
Education has not done so well with remote learning. We are still working on what could be done better, but we already know the lack of socialization cuts deeply. I remember years ago when we were raising a puppy, we recognized the importance of dog parks. Our dog needed to learn some pack manners, to find four legged mentors, and to understand she was not the only dog in the world.
So, too, it is with children. They need to bump into each other a lot. So perhaps we have learned that technology is a great tool, but it is not the toolbox for all situations.
Few sectors of the economy have been hit as hard as travel. I expect business travel will never be the same. Companies have learned that a lot can be done online, and they will spend their money elsewhere.
And yet, I expect not a small amount of business travel will resume, as will conventions and trade shows. Because we all need to press the flesh and look at someone up close, eyeball to eyeball. That is how we build trust and relationships. It is how deals are sealed.
Personal travel is already roaring back – a little too soon, actually. But the demand is huge. People feel trapped and want to roam. For those businesses that depend on tourism that have survived, they are likely to have a great second half of 2021.
An interesting footnote; how we will relate to each other. I bet you will find a lot of people who normally would not do so striking up conversations with strangers as they travel.
They will do so because we all have that shared experience of being stalked by a killer virus. I saw the same thing in New York right after 9/11. People standing on a corner waiting for a light would start up short conversations. I used to live in New York – that would have been unthinkable earlier among New Yorkers. But we found new bonds.
Mental and Emotional States
A number of people tell me that they fully expected to be relieved when they got their inoculations and two weeks had passed. They were, as expected, grateful to be among the early recipients of this miracle of science.
But they were surprised to find they actually feel giddy. So deep is the feeling of release on so many levels, that their spirits have taken wing. Nice. Let’s not forget what that feels like.
But we also know that perhaps for most if not all of us, we are unlikely to ever feel quite the same in a really crowded place. We may never feel comfortable in such a setting again. That is sad.
Think about such settings in your past that were the setting for joy or history. That will be harder to recreate in the future. If another pandemic hits anytime soon, it will be gone forever.
Personal and Institutional Priorities
The pandemic, like other historic large-scale trauma, reminded a lot of us what is important and how having time or more opportunities to get things right may not come our way. There may not be the opportunity to say Thanks, much less Goodbye.
We have been reminded that human relationships deserve our time and attention. One can hope that a lot of us will be better for these reminders.
Now we are having that great discussion as a nation, on many levels. So many have been hurt. Some few have done really well out of all this. What shall we do about all that?
How generous are we as a people toward our fellow human being, here and abroad? What shall we expect of each other as members of the larger community?
President Biden has outlined a path forward that calls on our better selves. It will be interesting to see if we answer the call.
Ten Years from Now
It would be really interesting to take inventory of these matters in about a decade. Will we have incorporated the good things? Will we have learned the hard lessons?
Americans are not exactly famous for long attention spans, but maybe this is big enough for us to pay attention more often than not. What a better country this would be if we do.
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(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here.
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