Jean’s piece is shared in its entirety here at The Wild Reed with her generous permission. Thank you, Jean!
Now that our COVID-19 emergency has ended, we’re breathing a cautious sigh of relief. What a sobering time it’s been. We were brought to our knees by a microscopic virus that wreaked havoc in our communities and our lives, causing immense disruption and loss – of loved ones, jobs, health, our very way of life.
While the pandemic is fresh in our minds, let’s excavate that experience for whatever wisdom we might glean to illuminate our path forward.
What have we learned? The preciousness of life? Good. Well, yes, if you’re wearing pajama bottoms on zoom, don’t stand up. Useful.
What struck me most, though, was the stark reminder of how vulnerable we all are, how dependent on others. Notions of self-sufficiency? Gone. We needed each other. Literally. What good is rugged individualism when the store is out of toilet paper, the clinic can’t see you due to staff shortages, there are no hospital beds available? We learned, viscerally, the meaning of “essential workers,” how critical they were to our lives, workers we often overlook and underpay – warehouse employees, bus drivers, grocery stockers, nursing home staff.
Even longstanding businesses discovered their vulnerability. Your supply chain is interrupted, materials left on coastal docks – worker shortages. Your workforce dwindles as employees sicken, some die. Your market dries up, as struggling consumers cut spending. Chain reactions in this web of life. “How could this happen,” business owners lamented, as they confronted their dependence on others.
As it turns out (trumpets, please), the bottom line is a circle – always dependent on countless people making the venture go. No initiative flies on its own. The bottom line is a circle, in business, in life. We need each other. This is the truth – may it go viral!
I was born into a farming community that lived this truth. If you got sick, couldn’t milk your cows, you called a neighbor. Harvest time, they rented a threshing machine together, then went farm to farm until the work was done. They formed a creamery coop and communally harvested ice on the lake. Shrewd farmers – they knew the wisdom of mutual aid and they all reaped the benefits. Their bottom line was a circle.
The geometry of our time: a circle as the bottom line, perhaps, of all time. According to Dr. Dean Ornish, our species evolved to survive by supporting and caring for each other. Species that didn’t, disappeared. Communal caring gave us a survival advantage.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead presented fossil evidence for prehistoric caring among homo sapiens – a healed femur. A broken femur was totally disabling, inevitably causing death, unless you received care.
In a leadership seminar, we did the “Snowbound” exercise: a vehicle caught in a storm with 40 potentially useful items. We each ranked the items on their usefulness, then shared our lists in the group and re-negotiated rankings, creating a new list. We were surprised to learn that in all the years they’d used the exercise, the group was always smarter than any individual. Another circle asset – we’re smarter together.
Political scientist Robert Putnam writes,“for the first two thirds of the twentieth century greater national prosperity and greater equality in sharing the wealth went hand in hand. . . . We were collectively richer and more equal.” (The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again) Add prosperity to the balance sheet.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said so eloquently, “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
In other words, we are in this together, whether we like it or not. We cannot go it alone, no matter who we are – we need the goods, services, not to mention, caring relationships, others provide. We celebrate independence – isn’t it time we celebrated interdependence?
If the pandemic has taught us anything, hasn’t it taught us that it’s in our best interests that others are doing well? The virus unmasked the myth of self-sufficiency. Seldom has it been more evident that our own well-being rests in the hands of others. We’ve got to look out for each other.
COVID was a wake-up call. The circle of caring and cooperation still gives us a survival advantage – that is the bottom line.
circle process, Jean Greenwood has been a restorative justice practitioner since 1991. She is also a Presbyterian minister, a mediator, and an adjunct professor at numerous Twin Cities centers of higher education, including the University of Minnesota, Hamline University Law School, and United Theological Seminary.
Jean can be reached at email@example.com
Related Off-site Links:
World Health Organization Says COVID Emergency Is Over. So What Does That Wean? – Maria Cheng (AP News, May 5, 2023).
“It’s Still Killing and It’s Still Changing.” Ending COVID-19 States of Emergency Sparks Debate – Kai Kupferschmidt and Meredith Wadman (Science, May 5, 2023).
UPDATE: The Virus That Causes COVID Can Directly Infect Plaque Cells in the Arteries – Allison Aubrey (NPR News, October 5, 2023).
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
• Thom Hartmann: Quote of the Day – July 14, 2023
• Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis: Quote of the Day – May 3, 2023
• The State of the COVID Pandemic: “We’re Collectively Walking An Immunity Tightrope”
• Vaccines and GMOs: Two Very Different Debates
• On the Second Anniversary of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Words of Gratitude and Hope
• Difficult Choices
• A COVID Start to 2022
• Out and About – Autumn 2021
• Renae Gage: Quote of the Day – November 28, 2021
• COVID Observations From a General Surgeon
• Richard LaFortune: Quote of the Day – August 20, 2021
• Something to Lament
• A Pandemic Year
• Out and About – Spring 2020
• Memes of the Times
• The Lancet Weighs-in on the Trump Administration’s “Incoherent” Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic
• Examining the Link Between Destruction of Biodiversity and Emerging Infectious Diseases
• Sonya Renee Taylor: Quote of the Day – April 18, 2020
• Marianne Williamson: In the Midst of This “Heartbreaking” Pandemic, It’s Okay to Be Heartbroken
• Hope and Beauty in the Midst of the Global Coronavirus Pandemic
• A Prayer in Times of a Pandemic