5 big lessons from small stories

The most remarkable stories can come from the least expected sources, if only we give one another the time and space to listen.

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masks being worn in Lima by indigenous communities

Since lockdowns began, the All We Have team has been collecting Covid-19 experiences from around the world, bringing them together in a digital exhibition that showcases the small stories of this world-shifting event. Having curated photographs and spoken to individuals from over 70 countries, we’ve connected on a scale well beyond anything we’ve experienced before.

Here are 5 things we’ve learnt so far from the stories we’ve listened to:

1. Each death is a life, not a statistic

When Michael agreed to speak to us, we knew it wouldn’t be an easy conversation. He had lost his brother, New York Times journalist Alan Finder, to Covid-19 in early March. Michael was open and honest, he was also understandably nervous for his own health and anxious to return to the woman he loved, 4000 miles away in Norway. Covid-19 had upset his life so entirely and deeply that it shifted our own understanding of the pandemic. Here was a person, not a number. One of many hundreds of thousands who have lost loved ones worldwide and yet he is alone in his struggle to come to terms with grieving from afar, replacing rituals and coping while keeping a 2 meter distance from anyone, including his own sons. Right now, we mustn’t forget that behind each number is not just a life lost but also a family and friendship network trying to cope.

2. Listen to your kids

Wisdom can come from unexpected places. Sometimes this means listening to your kids! Seamus is 13 and lives with his family in Melbourne, Australia. Being honest, we were surprised at the sense he was able to make of the challenges he had gone through and those that were ahead. We were all unprepared for Covid-19 because, as Seamus said, “It was like a whale. You think to yourself ‘No, that can’t exist’. And yet it does.” Burying our head in the sand will no longer do. Meanwhile, Seamus reminded us that having the courage to take on new challenges could very well be our way out. He finally took up his dad’s invitation to go running and has learnt to push himself beyond mental limits. He also left us with a pearl of wisdom regarding lockdown easing: “This time’s the best during this whole thing because we can keep living our lives on minimal stuff but we can also hang out with friends. And not just stare at TV, binge-watching Brooklyn 99.”

3. Living with uncertainty

At unexpected moments in life, you speak to someone whose words are exactly what you need to hear to gain a new wind for going forward. For us, this was Suzanne, an art gallery owner in Hanoi. Suzanne’s life has been saturated with death, having lost her husband and grandchild, as well as six members of family in a plane crash. Life’s most cruel lessons and her Buddhist faith have given her an admirable ability to accept uncertainty. No, we can’t walk around life expecting Covid-19 to rage around the globe but instead of burying ourselves in busyness, we can make space for uncertainty. Having a plan that allows flexibility in our work, our relationships and our dreams might just ease the post-coronavirus anxieties everyone will be feeling right now.

Gabriel and Ross in Lima, Peru

4. Finding that place called home

As Covid-19 unsettles the globe and forces us all indoors, we were struck by a sentiment shared by many of our contributors. Right now, the thing to focus on might just be the place you are in. Having a home can be the most important thing. Adam, an expat teacher in Beijing, was racing around South-East Asia trying to avoid the early wave of coronavirus until he realized that he might not be allowed to come home. Getting back to his flat and feeling settled in a place he knew and loved came as a great relief. Marianne, who only recently returned to sweltering Tucson, Arizona, from the windy coast of the UK, found herself forming a new relationship in a town she had severed ties with, in part thanks to creative isolation and to cycle rides through the desert. Our sense of home is often at its most intense when we’re afar.

5. We really are all in this together

We started All We Have because we were struck by how the pandemic was tripping up lives across the world, creating a common denominator between us all. At the same time, we watched as divisions grew in every aspect of our global lives, from the political to the cultural. And so it was a relief to have photographs pour in from all corners of our planet, reemphasized the degree to which we share this challenge. We really are all in this together. That can be a terrifying thought as the challenges we face are vast and varied. But it also speaks to the possibility for a global society where we can support each other from every corner, knowing that others will feel, think and act the same.

Explore the beautiful stories All We Have has brought together: https://www.allwehavestories.com/

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