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Gratitude in the Time of COVID-19

Is COVID-19 what we wanted? No. But it’s here.

I’m going to voice a surprising opinion.

I am grateful for COVID-19.

Don’t get me wrong, I loathe the fact that it’s wreaked so much havoc worldwide.  I mourn the dead and grieve with the living.  I abhor the economic hardship it has caused for so many people.  I am heartbroken that the class of 2020 is being deprived of their senior year touchstones.  I worry for the front line and the essential workers, and I despise the political gamesmanship and the fear and the anxiety and all the other horrible things that this disease is leaving in its wake.

But I’m grateful for it as well.

In this new normal time of sheltering in place, I’ve had more contact with friends around the country than in the past five years combined.  My family has moved quite a bit, and even though you say you’ll remain close to people, it rarely happens.  But my time of quarantine has been filled with Zoom happy hours and long-distance card games with people I haven’t seen in years.  Instead of having to miss my nephew’s graduation party completely, I’ll be joining a country-wide facetime event with relatives and friends from across time zones.

Is it what we wanted?  No, but it’s what we’re learning to do.

I have continually been amazed at the resilience and creativity of people who’s plans have gone awry.  Over the past two weekends, after face-to-face conventions were cancelled, I participated in two online fan conventions with people around the world.  One even included a Zoom call with the featured celebrity himself, offering some surprise contact for people who might never have been able to make a trip to a convention. 

Is it what we wanted?  No, but it’s what we’re learning to do.

Also, over the past two weekends, I have been “attending” the famous Jazz Fest in New Orleans.  While the actual event was cancelled, NOLA’s local public radio station played the greatest sets from the past forty-nine years.  I had the opportunity to hear everyone from Professor Longhair to Bruce Springsteen.  Even when I lived in New Orleans, I couldn’t attend Jazz Fest, but thanks to COVID-19 I heard some of the greats. 

Is it what we wanted?  No, but it’s what we’re learning to do.

Every day you see stories about the bad things that are happening; doctors and nurses are literally working themselves to death to save people, grocery cashiers go home crying from their minimum wage jobs, educators struggle to teach when many students are without basic internet or electronics, parents juggle full time work with full time family and end up feeling inadequate at both, families worry about paying the bills.

But tucked behind these stories are the good things.  Animal shelters are emptying out because people are finding that pets ease the loneliness of staying at home 24/7.  Instagram personalities are holding daily dance classes to get people moving in lockdown.  Neighbors host impromptu concerts from their front porches, with the audience seated across the street.  I’m personally able to dance again with my beloved NOLA Chorus Girls, thanks to video classes.  People are slowing down, cooking more, learning new things. 

Is it what we wanted?  No, but it’s what we’re learning to do.

If this new normal is showing us anything, it’s showing us that we are tough and innovative.  We’re finding new and exciting ways to conduct life, both in business and at home.

Increased working from home now may lead to changes in the workplace, allowing parents to work with greater flexibility.  Increased online classes may lead to changes in education, allowing students more leeway around when they need to be on campus and when they don’t.  Increased visibility of front line and essential workers may lead to changes in salaries and benefits for those who have been denied a living wage.

Is COVID-19 what we wanted?  No.  But it’s here. 

And I am learning to be grateful for it.

Aileen Dingus is the Marketing & Events Coordinator | NSF I-Corps Site Program Manager for Tech Launch Arizona at the University of Arizona, an “at large” member of the NOLA Chorus Girls, and a Tucson Public Voices Fellow with the Op-Ed Project.

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