I often turn to my children when facing life’s vexing moments. So I did just that recently.
“Kiddos, what do you think coronavirus is here to teach us?”
My 11 year old spoke first, “To be thankful for our health.”
I step back from this moment and wonder if she is on to something.
Working as a physician and educator, and having spent the better part of the last days thinking about the implications of COVID-19 for our New Mexico population down to the level of patients and students, I am thankful for this moment.
If you will allow, I would like to infuse some coronavirus-induced gratitude into the moment in which we find ourselves.
A time to see more clearly the importance of the people and communities that sustain us. Reflect on this when your workplace huddles together to discuss COVID-19 precautions and procedures. It is so easy to work around great people and, distracted by the work to be done, forget to appreciate those doing the work. Reflect on it, but don’t stop there: Tell the beautiful people around you how much you value them. I can’t leave this topic without thinking of the epidemic of loneliness that afflicts our society that claims to be so technologically connected: Take a moment to notice the neighbor, classmate, work colleague who does not have community and invite them into yours.
In a world eternally on fast forward, truncated to 140 character messages, coronavirus gives us a moment to pause, breathe deep, slow down, dig deeper. Self-care – increase the dose! Storytime with your children – increase the dose! Prayer, exercise, and other ways that you connect with yourself and things larger than you – increase the dose! Start today with the birds and trees outside your house and office that greet you only to have you rush past without a nod or smile. Continue with the food you eat – take a moment to slow down and be mindful of how this food got to your plate. Consume accordingly. Consider this next few weeks an extended snow day, an invitation to slow down to a healthier speed of living than our usual. And since angst and anxiety are among us, spreading like the virus itself, your work to slow down and breathe deep will be good medicine.
A very simple ask of myself and all of us, returning to my daughter’s advice: gratitude. Make a point today to express gratitude. If necessary, use words. Make your living something the poets and prophets speak of, gratitude in your heart and hands (washed frequently, of course). In the 100,000 heartbeats, 20,000 breaths, and the 86,400 seconds that make today, take a few heartbeats, breaths, and seconds to give thanks. Increase dose steadily.
The test question for my students would be simple:
“Coronavirus: curse or blessing?”
You get to decide today what answer to choose.
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