There is so much that COVID-19 is requiring us to deal with. First, there are the health issues as we deal with the health impacts and attempts to “flatten the curve,” or slow the rise of new cases so as not to overwhelm the health care system. Then there are the economic issues as job losses come and incomes are squeezed. Finally, there is our personal well-being: how are we doing faced with illness, death, and a degree of isolation we’ve not experienced before.
There is a report based on data from Gallup World Poll studies that attempts to measure happiness by country. For the third year in a row, Finland has been named the happiest country in the world. One of the authors of the study, John Heliwell, professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia, said, “They are (a) very high trust society. Any individual who feels a sense of belonging and high trust, which is more common in the Nordic countries than elsewhere, is much more sheltered against adversity of many types.”
They say that if you squeeze an orange, you are going to get orange juice. This pandemic is squeezing us, and what is coming out is not always very pretty. There are many examples of people coming together to help each other (see our upcoming August issue of Signature Magazine for local examples) but we are also exhibited hoarding and mistrust.
Is it a coincidence that, here in the United States, we are experiencing an upswing in racial tension as we are experiencing the unprecedented global event that is COVID-19? And how is our looming presidential election serving us? Are we coming together or are we widening the chasm between red and blue?
There is no doubt that our collective mental health depends greatly on our social network. It’s also true that societies rife with division, polarization and mistrust fare badly in the face of huge disruptions. A scroll through social media paints a picture that is disturbing at best.
I believe that it is time for us to acknowledge that our own mental health and that of our neighbors may well depend on how willing and able we are to see the world through another’s eyes. I am Caucasian, and I do not understand the devastating effects of racial discrimination. I can’t fully understand it because I haven’t lived it. But I can listen to and believe the words of those who have experienced it.
We are all humans, with a need of and a capacity for looking out for each other. We need to find ways to bridge gaps so that we can learn to trust each other. It doesn’t take digging very deep to find things we have in common – love for our children and the quest for peace, harmony, and prosperity. Don’t we have enough on our plates without choosing sides?
Christina Pierce is publisher of The Pine Belt News and Signature Magazine.