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The COVID-19 Experience

The last few months have been something unprecedented, and I hope, something we don’t ever see again.  COVID-19 is a horrible virus that is causing so much damage to the entire world in infinite ways. The loss of life and health is frightening, and the financial losses to individuals, companies and countries is a story yet to be fully told.

As important as that is, I want to mention some of the other things I have seen that are equally important.  The world works in balance, and we find the good and bad, as we label them, often intertwined. More than anything, the COVID-19 experience has taught me that there is more good in the world than bad. Yes, COVID-19 is horrible, but it has also brought us together in unexpected ways. The United States, in comparison to other countries, is the workaholic. I say this with compassion and endearment, but in truth too. We work hard, and that is something to be proud of, but in the last 50 years what did we lose?

The last few months forced us to take a step back and reflect. At first it was scary and painful for so many, but we have all changed in the most subtle, and not so subtle ways. I have been watching these changes and it makes me proud of our communities, states, nation, and the world. In a very short time, we have adapted and changed course over and over. Some people long to get things back to normal, but I hope things never go back to the old normal.

Before COVID-19, how often did you walk trails and find positive, hopeful messages on the sidewalk? Did you see stones painted with kind words? I don’t recall seeing that before. Now, I see it often on my walks and it brings me joy. People are making masks for others, often just out of kindness and concern. When do you recall that happening on such a wide scale before? I really don’t.

In the workplace, usually on our Teams calls, you will hear us all asking each other how we are doing, and actually meaning it! I am seeing people connecting again, which is something we lost over the last few decades. People are spending time with family, cooking real meals again, and sharing. These simple gestures are impacting our physical and emotional health in positive ways. Some people are starting new hobbies, or learning new things again. This is life, and it is good!

Early in my career, I read “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor Frankl. Most of us counselor types have read it. I’ll concede, I am not the typical counselor, and I’m not very tied to emotion. I’m an INTJ, so there you go. Anyway, this book is about our choices. For those who don’t know, Viktor Frankl survived multiple Nazi concentration camps during World War II. He lived each day for years in uncertainty. Through that experience he realized he had a choice. Even in confinement he had the freedom and power of his own mind and he realized he could choose how to approach each day. We all get up and decide how we view the world daily. He searched for meaning in every small thing he did each day, and that released him from the physical prison in which he lived.

I don’t dare compare any of what we are currently dealing with, to his experiences. However, I learned a lot from the message he conveyed in his writing.

There are those who will choose doom and gloom and fear, but there are also those who rise to choose meaning in the tough experiences we endure and emerge on the other side with new growth because of it. My point to all of this is that we as communities, states, and nations, have pulled out beauty, from an otherwise sad situation. It is okay to take a moment to look at that, smile, and move onward and forward in our current battles of life.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

–Viktor Frankl