As I was running into the grocery store, I couldn’t help but take a moment to look at the light, the candy cane border, and the bell ringers stationed in front of the door. For a moment, I felt like I was in some dystopian Hallmark movie. I looked at the bell ringer’s eyes since that’s all I could see due to the masking of COVID. However, at that moment, I couldn’t help but wonder if we really ever looked at people before the pandemic. Did we really ever see people for who they are or what they can bring to the table? Instead, did we look through them?
When I made it back home to my 5 and 7 year old, I threw on the movie, The Polar Express. There is a character in that movie that really represents America right now. Billy, is a lonely 8-year-old boy, who is riding the train with the other kids. There is a moment when he finds his Christmas present in the North Pole. He wants to cling to this present with every fiber of his being. The elves take it from him and encourage him to trust in their work.
Looking at this as an adult, a physician during COVID, has really changed my perception of this dialogue. Anyone who has gone through periods of scarcity can relate to Billy. I remember when my parents would fight over money. The three of us kids would listen, and worry about having enough money for rent or food. I remember sitting in a closet with my sister playing to distract ourselves from the slamming of cupboards and drawers in the kitchen.
From the perspective of a scarcity of resources, it is easy to understand why America went into a tailspin with the pandemic. Anyone who has previously struggled would make sure their families have the necessary supplies. So, when many were making fun of people for hoarding toilet paper and other supplies, I understood. It is a similar concept to anxiety over having enough food. You begin to hoard the resources to make sure your family can survive whatever storm is coming.
The more I thought about this principle, the more I realized that I often look for other ways to obtain PPE. This is clearly due to my concern for a scarcity of resources. This intrinsic fear of not having enough to take care of my “family” translates to staff and physicians I work with. I do not doubt that each state’s governors felt this nag of anxiety when tasked with individually obtaining the state’s equipment.
For so many of us, Christmas and the Holiday Season is one that can bring renewal and reflection. I am hoping that it does the same for our country. This year, we have been visited by the ghosts of past, present, and future as a nation. Like Scrooge, in A Christmas Carol, we have been forced to look at these realities, and we decide how we want to wake up and deal with the issues at hand.
The past, the realities associated with gender and racial disparities in health care, leadership, entertainment, and justice. This has all been brought to the forefront. This is a ghost we can’t seem to get rid of. We have seen protests like we haven’t experienced since the 1960s. We have been forced to see the past and decide how we want to move forward as a nation.
In current day America, we have witnessed the disparagement and minimization of scientists, physicians, academics, and women who are any of the above, have received an extra serving at the table of hostility. We have come face to face with our inadequate response to a pandemic that continues to claim the lives of so many. However, we have also seen the medical community band together to provide care, love, and resilience to the masses. We have seen a spirit rise in all of us to fight for what’s right and just. We have seen physicians and nurses who are determined to make meaningful changes for our patients.
Kellie Lease Stecher is an obstetrician-gynecologist, M Health Fairview Center for Women, Edina and Eden Prairie, MN. She can be reached on LinkedIn, Facebook, and on Medium @kellie.stecher.
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