What’s Right? Selflessness in a Time of Suffering

If I asked you how you were doing right now, what would you say? Many of us might respond with, “I’m doing okay,” or, “Pretty good, given the circumstances.” But is that the truth? Statistics would paint a different picture.

At the moment, surveys show that 53% of us are reporting a feeling of emotional exhaustionnearly one-third are struggling with anxiety or depression, and 1 in 5 have displayed an all too real physical response to the stress caused by this pandemic.

Truthfully, things are tough right now. Our economy is taking a nosedive. There’s a high amount of uncertainty surrounding our future, and a certain level of sacrifice is required of each of us to ensure the safety of those we care about. And, when faced with all of those things, it’s easy to dismiss this pandemic as a hoax, downplay the seriousness of it to protect our sanity, or to say, “Since I’m not vulnerable, it’s not my problem.”

Really, we’re finding that as this virus drags on, the stark reality of it is inevitably creeping into our world. Honestly, thanks to our state government’s initial swift action, we were sheltered from much of the horrifying nature of this pandemic. However, the reality is that over 500,000 Americans have died from the Coronavirus. And, downplay it if you will, but that’s quite a few preventable deaths.

Up until a couple of days ago, the true consequences of this virus had not been real to me. Like so many other Montanans, I felt the emotional and social implications of it. Still, I had mentally distanced myself from the very real, tangible threat it had to the well-being of myself and those I care about.

But, of course, when someone you know and love dies at its hands, the virus becomes hard to ignore. It was Saturday at 11:08 pm when I got the text from my mother. I was nearly asleep when I read, “Maria died last night. This is a horrific, horrible, vicious virus. PLEASE, wear a mask when you leave your house and wash your hands.”

I remember a month ago when I learned from my aunt that Maria had been diagnosed with COVID-19. She had been looking for the phone number of someone else who may have been exposed at the local health department’s request. I was on another call at work when her message popped up on my Facebook Messenger.

At the time, I dismissed it. You see, it didn’t seem real then. Even after she battled for her life for several weeks on a ventilator, it didn’t seem real. Truthfully, even as my mom challenged hospital staff to see her, I was detached. I wasn’t ready to mentally grasp any of it- anything that would bring the scary reality of this pandemic mentally into my world.

Like over 500,000 other Americans, Maria fought for her life and died alone. No one could see her in the hospital. No one got to say their goodbyes or were able to get that final closure. It was not swift, and it was not free of pain.

So, let me be the first to tell you, as someone who had initially downplayed this situation’s gravity, it’s not a hoax.

As selfish as it sounds, I felt a sense of resistance to measures implemented to ensure my own and other’s safety up until last night. While I’ve always been an avid hand-washer, I haven’t always been the best at staying home for nonessential activities. And, like so many other Montanans, I felt like masks were uncomfortable, so I didn’t always wear one unless absolutely necessary.

Really, the safety measures of mask-wearing, social distancing, and increased sanitation are such minutiae sacrifices in the big scheme of things. All discomforts and inconveniences associated with them just melt away in the face of the real tragedy that could occur if they’re ignored.

I, myself, am relatively young at thirty-five. Overall, I’m in pretty good health and am certainly not overweight. But, just like all of us, I have a responsibility, really, a duty, to protect those around me.

Now, if the ethical duty to protect society at large isn’t enough to convince you to wear a mask and take safety measures, hear this: each of us has somebody in our world that we care about that is elderly, overweight, or who is in some other way medically compromised. Believe me when I tell you, no one wants to see those they love to die in such a horrific way. No one wants someone they care about to suffer at the hands of this virus.

The reality is, my parents have worked in hospitals for over forty years and have even treated patients with the new, novel Coronavirus. But, neither of them in all of that time have ever caught a bug at work. That’s because they wear their maskswash their hands, and practice all of the required safety measures. So, if you’re feeling a sense of helplessness at the hands of this virus, believe me when I tell you, you’re not powerless.

At Youth Dynamics, we’ve put strict health measures in place to protect our teams’ safety and the families we serve. We’ve erected sneeze guards at our front desks, quickly snatched up all of the hand sanitizer and disinfectants we could find for our local offices, and provided masks to not just our staff but also to the families we serve to use during appointments. All of this because we aren’t just invested in our employees or organization’s well-being, but the future of our state as a whole.

Please heed my words and follow our lead. There’s no reason for pointless suffering. We don’t need to lose any more of our fellow Americans or prolong this pandemic’s mental and economic burden. Stay home if you feel sick, wear your mask religiously, social distance, and please wash your hands. If each of us does these things together, we can ensure a bright future for those we care about, our state, and our nation as a whole.  

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