When we look around us (particularly at the unfortunate situation in the US) it is apparent that COVID-19 is no respecter of persons. Even in BC as we “open up” and return to what we think of as normal life, more cases of COVID-19 will emerge. As they do, a wider spread is more likely to occur. This raises the likelihood of seriously impacting the vulnerable among us. We can easily get caught up in thinking about what we will do as we get back to “normal” – doing the things that we used to do without having to consider their impact on others. However, our “normal” can no longer ignore those who are vulnerable either due to their physical/medical status, their racial status, or the many other issues that put the vulnerable at risk. The issue of mask wearing is a good example of our need to consider others. I for one, must confess that I have been lax in wearing a mask. We have been very fortunate in BC, on Vancouver Island, and particularly on Denman Island that we have not had significant numbers of COVID cases. I have been constantly amazed at how well people have respected the guidance to stay home, physical distance and practice good hygiene. Now as we move to phase 2 and 3 of opening up, and increase social interactions, wearing a mask is more important.
The wearing of masks can sometimes feel like an imposition. We live in a western society that too often values individuality and free choice above all else. This is particularly true in the US and although we think of ourselves in Canada as more of a “caring society” we still have a fair bit of individualistic thinking.
However the reality of COVID-19 has brought us to the stark realization that we do not live our lives in isolation from others. We must now consider others in the way we live our lives. In particular we need to be more diligent in wearing masks for the role it plays in reducing spread of the virus. This is true even where there are low numbers of the virus in our community. So I for one will be more diligent to wear a mask in public areas.
In terms of living in “the here and now” what should our guiding principle be? I would like to put forward that the golden rule of “treating each other as we would like them to treat us” is the best guide we have. All of the major religions have this as their central message. Karen Armstrong has written about this in “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life”. In my previous articles I have alluded to my belief that we all come from the same source. I believe we were created along with all of the universe with a purpose to give and receive love. In recognizing and adopting this purpose in our lives we feel more connected with each other and the planet that so needs our care rather than our exploitation.
We all face a challenge in trying to practice the golden rule. Either inadvertently or intentionally, people and the system in which we live impact us. Recent paediatric research has determined that “Adverse Childhood Events” (ACEs) are an important determinant of health. We inevitably are impacted by things people say or do or by various traumatic events. We often either suppress the effects of hurtful events in our past or spend all of our energy fighting against them. However, our wounds inevitably come out one way or another. I believe every human bears some impact from past traumatic events whether big or small. We need to recognize, acknowledge and seek healing of these wounds. Without engaging in this process, we inevitably transmit our pain in a myriad of ways. As we face our own broken places we are in a much healthier place to allow love to flow and to practice compassion.
So when I ask “What Now”, I believe the way forward is to be aware of how what we say and do impacts those around us. Being aware of the pain we have in our own lives helps us avoid projecting it onto others and frees us to show compassion. In doing so we will be better equipped to live out the Golden Rule and bring healing to our families, our communities and our world.