Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Doing what needs to be done

Written by  Jim Nakoneshny

When I was growing up in the ‘70s, there were still a large number of folks around who had lived through the Second World War, as well as the Great Depression before that. In fact, a number of “my elders” would likely have been younger than I am now. Still as a kid, those experiences seemed like a page from the far-distant past, and whenever the older relatives would start reminiscing about that era, it was hard for modern sensibilities to reconcile the hardship and sacrifices they all faced.

The younger generation would ask how and why things were done a certain way and how they survived the rationing and life in the grips of such uncertainty. The answer was often some variation of: “You did what needed to be done”. So, for several years, the nation suspended its normal activities and focused almost exclusively on supporting the war effort.

Over the next many years life moved on, lifestyles grew more extravagant, and technology transformed the world. Global economies grew so big and everything was so intertwined that the argument was often made that significant changes now couldn’t be made without dire consequences. CO2 emissions can’t be reduced to curtail global warming; poverty and wage gaps can’t be corrected to improve lives; people who were serious about their careers need to devote at least 60 hours per week to get ahead. It’s just the way things are.

Then, suddenly, in the middle of March it all stopped. An unprecedented new threat to the lives of everyone across the planet was quickly emerging.  Businesses were shuttered, workers were sent home and government assistance payments were sent out. Traffic suddenly disappeared and the air started to clear. The unthinkable was now commonplace. The impossible, possible. We did what needed to be done.

I clearly recall standing in line outside my local Costco on an early April afternoon with some 30 other customers waiting to get inside to buy groceries. Of course, the shelves inside were stacked to the rafters with everything you could possibly want (except maybe toilet paper), so this was nothing like WWII rationing. But still, everyone was calmly waiting their turn to go inside, separated by 6’ invisible barriers, doing what they could to make the situation work. If you’d have asked any of us a month earlier if we’d go along with such a thing, few would have thought it possible.

Similar scenes were playing out everywhere, including in churches throughout the world leading up to the holiest week of the year. At a time when attendance is normally counted in the thousands, less then 10 people were inside our cathedral celebrating the Easter Triduum for broadcast to our parishioners. The unthinkable was now commonplace. The impossible, possible.

As life slowly, carefully inches its way back to so-called normalcy, perhaps that is the best lesson to be learned from this pandemic. Yes, there may be pain. Yes, there may be loss. Yes, it may take a few years for our balance sheets to again begin to balance. But the air is fresher, the birds are louder, and we’ve been blessed with plenty of home baking and time with our families.

And once again, we are reminded that when something really needs to be done, nothing is impossible.

Read 476 times Last modified on Tuesday, May 26, 2020