Over the last few days I have spent more quality time with my wife and daughters than I can even begin to remember.
We are quarantined to our home, which almost sounds ironic to think that being home all day is a place of absolute isolation.
The world as we know it is on the brink of an economic collapse based on complete uncertainty. From job loss and financial stability, to healthfulness and mortality, everything is being questioned and challenged at a steadfast rate. It is an absolute first for the 21st century, and seems almost incomparable to 2001 or 2008. We do not know when the rebound will take effect, and it is still too early to predict any substantive good news at this current state.
However, I believe amongst this chaos there is something remarkable happening, almost a silver lining of sorts…
Do you see it?
Do you feel it?
Empathy is everywhere… and I think it’s the result of being fearful. Fear can lead to courage, and courage leads to empathy.
“"I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it."”-Maya Angelou
Well, I am noticing that it is beginning to outwardly show. There is a correlation of the forced nature of having to distance ourselves from one another that is now demonstrating the positive effect that social media can have for culture. From a rise in phone calls, to the ability to FaceTime with 32 people at once CNET. It is happening.
People are in fact finding ways to come together. Families, friends, people are talking and engaging even if it is about simple subjects like the over-consumption of toilet paper, people are talking. This concept of “Social Distancing” and “Flattening the Curve” is actually bringing people together, and is rightfully challenging what we have been talking about for the last two to three years around Loneliness.
In 2018, there was a survey conducted by the Economist and the Kaiser Family Foundation that stated “22% of adults in the US said they always or often feel lonely, lack companionship, or feel left out”.
This pandemic is forcing all of us to be together, having a unified shared experience… whether its’ Anderson Cooper reporting from his home library or Ellen cold calling celebrities and sharing on Instagram; we are all forced to stay home finding ways to engage differently with one another, and most importantly all craving that need for companionship.
Everyone is feeling this pressure.
Many are rightfully nervous about this first full week of quarantine heading into week two, and working from home. Dynamics with the kids or the dogs, or even being home with the spouse/partner working (together and at the same time) creates a complete and new social dynamic and life balance.
Let’s be honest, it could be an opportunity; working from home. It could not only bring you closer to your family, or self, but it might even force you to be more in touch with your work colleagues and be more focused, purposeful and efficient.
Remember when companies were moving to the newer and cool “open office vibe” thing? Idea spaces, open environment, exposed brick, natural light, no cubes, etc….
In the November-December 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review, Ethan Bernstein and Ben Waber from HBR wrote an amazing piece on “The Truth about open offices”.
“When the firms switched to open offices, face-to-face interactions fell by 70%.”
I am not suggesting that offices will just go away forever after this pandemic, and that people will not return to some kind of office environment. I am saying that there will be a behavioral shift in how people balance work, life, and family. I am saying that how employers look at office space and efficiency, and how employees look at time and efficacy will be treated differently. I believe and hope that self-awareness, and family relationships will start to become first, and we will begin to find ways to intertwine family and relationships into work balance not the other way around.
On January 23rd of this year, NPR did an article around the theme of loneliness and the workplace. “More than three in five Americans are lonely, with more and more people reporting feeling like they are left out, poorly understood and lacking companionship, according to a new survey released Thursday. Workplace culture and conditions may contribute to Americans’ loneliness”.
Thursday, March 19, in the state of Pennsylvania, all non-life sustaining businesses to close for an unknown period of time…. granted we have been asked to stay home and attempt to social distance since Monday.
I had a moment of clarity yesterday that I must share. Playing outside with my 4 year old daughter Stella, ( I, “the innocent bystander” and she the “dinosaur”) she tackles me to the ground, and there was this moment of absolute silliness coupled with this overwhelming feeling (this somber reality) that nothing else mattered in that singular moment and I felt so grateful… Why?
Why did that moment have such a profound affect on me?
Because, the nature of the present makes us more self-aware.
The current dynamics of what is occurring across the country and the world makes that moment count more. It was not just another Saturday afternoon. It was about finding time to bond in different ways, knowing that we have been together 24/7 the last 7 days. She is not in school, my work schedule disrupted… everything right now is so different.
I cannot tell you how many friends and neighbors I have who travel weekly for work, and never really get to see their family as much as they would like. They are both excited and terrified to be home and learn what the other half does (on both sides of that equation). I just hope they can have a shared experience like I had Saturday afternoon in some form. Simply, a moment of absolute clarity; of what really matters.
For each of us that is defined differently.
I just hope that everyone can have that same positive sobering moment, now, more than ever.
During this time I have seen people’s positive reactions to working together in a different way. Social Memes that have a new profound respect for what it means to “homeschool” your children, and the real gift that teachers are to all of us. The excitement about dogs knowing that we are home full-time, and the constant giving that seems to be happening to our fellow neighbor. Recognizing the bravery that doctors and nurses and all medical staff really possess, and standing behind the oath they swore; masks or bandanas.
We should thank grocery store employees for working every day, making sure we can buy our toilet paper and restocking shelves, and thank the USPS mail carriers, thank the drivers delivering Amazon packages.
Finally, it is my hope and belief that we are coming together as a nation to find ways to cope. And as this gets progressively worse before it gets better, I hope we continue to find creative ways to engage with one another, support one another, and join together during this time. This can translate to all of us being wiser and even more grateful on the other side of this pandemic, with the aspiration of starting fresh in the future with everyone being together and less people feeling left out.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”-Martin Luther King, Jr.