Lessons to learn from COVID-19 and other disasters

First, bush-fires just didn't seem to stop blazing in Australia. Then, NBA superstar Kobe Bean Bryant, and several other persons die in a helicopter crash. Earthquakes shake things up near and far, at home and abroad. A viral pandemic ensues. A twenty-two year old university student goes missing. University students die in a car crash. Robberies. Murders. 
It's only been three months of this new year, and none of them have been quite so happy.

Nevertheless, I'm one of those persons that believe everything happens for a reason. There is, after all, always some kind of cause behind every occurrence, even if you don't quite like the reason or even if I don't know what that reason is. I'm also a firm believer that life is filled with lessons worth learning, and if you're going to go through something your might as well grow. So, naturally, I set out to find a lesson I could learn even in the hellfire and damnation 2020 has seemed to be collectively wreaking on the world, and I'm so generous I'd like to share them with you. 
Read below for a few lessons I think we can all learn from COVID-19 and other disasters of sorts.

1. It's not all about you or me

It's kind to extend your circle of concern in moments of panic or disaster to members of your family, to your friends and family friends, but what about persons less advantaged than you and yours? What about the homeless, what about persons that are sick, disabled or immunocompromised and at risk? 
Widen your circle of concern and don't just talk the talk, but walk the walk. Back up your kind concern with actions. Don't put others at risk when you're sick. Don't selfishly say unkind things like, “As long as I don't catch it, it's fine” and refrain from downplaying the seriousness of viruses that can seriously wreak havoc on others, if not, on you. Donate and help others where you can. Advocate for and support those who need another voice for their cause.

2. Xenophobia is literally everywhere

Unfortunately, xenophobia is alive and well and only a disaster or skirmish away. And so is its infamous cousin racism.
With the outbreak of COVID-19 came a flood of harmful, unkind “jokes” and memes about Chinese food, culture and people. Many persons have genuinely become suspicious of and unwilling to be around any Asian person as a result. This has reminded me that we have to work hard to maintain ground we think we've already won. We must ensure that all our advances against racism and xenophobia aren't easily broken down and forgotten even in moments of intense fear, uncertainty and panic, or otherwise those 'advances' made are no true advances after all. 

3. None of us are untouchable

Life comes at you fast when a superstar and his teen daughter die in a tragic accident. It's also a major reality check to tune into the news to see faces of people your age who are missing or dead or have had a harrowing near miss experience. You also realise that none of us are untouchable when internationally famed basketball and football stars, as well as actors test positive for a virus that has been declared a global pandemic. 
Whatever your religious or other beliefs, death is even surer than taxes and life isn't always as long (and uneventful) as we tend to hope it'll be. Basically, anything can happen to anyone at any time.

So, cliched as it is, life is short; do as those corny picture frames and Facebook captions say and live, laugh and love. End each day with as few regrets as possible and when you're sorry say you're sorry. Be open and honest with those you love and enjoy the things you love while you can. 
4.  What goes around comes around
We all know we live in a global world but just how quickly this strain of the CoronaVirus has spread across the world has been an apt reminder for a people in danger of forgetting. German pastor Martin Niemöller famously said, 
"First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."


Since what goes around comes around, and every dog has its day, it is very important that we find it within our hearts to care for each other even when we are oceans away. After all, today for me and tomorrow for you. If we stop and think, many of us will find ourselves guilty of not having done enough or having cared enough when disaster struck elsewhere and for other people, just like Martin Niemöller. Be a little less self-involved, or be self-involved enough to realise that our lives are irrevocably linked and as a result of that, what happens to one of us will certainly affect almost all of us sooner or later.


5. Misinformation has wings


False and potentially information has probably, by now, made its rounds around the world and around the nation, and made its way on to your screens and into your ears. We all have to do our part to stop misinformation in its tracks and to re-educate ourselves and others - lives and livelihoods could depend on it.


6. This could've been an email

The closure of schools and the allowances made for working from remote locations in light of the outbreak spreading has really just proved what introverts and physically challenged persons knew all along - this meeting could've been an email and we really don't have to be here.
Even as cases begin to become fewer and fewer, I hope that we aren't so quick to require face-to-face interactions in cases where using technology would work just as well and be even more convenient. 



7. Prevention is better than cure / We have enough nine day wonders / If you have nothing nice to say seriously consider shutting up / This isn't the time for a blame game


The nation has been rocked by the disappearance of twenty-two year old, visually impaired Jasmine Deen. We've heard impassioned pleas from her doting father for her to be returned to him safely, and we've seen her fellow university students hand out flyers asking whether we've seen her.

But we've also heard a person or two telling us - and anyone who will listen - a thing or two about what Jasmine's dear old dad should've done to ensure this didn't happen. Yup. Seriously. It's about time we all learn that if we have nothing nice or helpful to say it's as good a time as any to keep quiet. Our 'expert' opinions and play-by-plays after the fact are no consolation and no help, making them entirely unnecessary. 

It's one thing to lovingly advise or admonish everyone's heightened awareness of possible dangers, and it's something else entirely to add to a distraught man's sorrows by vilifying him.

The same goes for pointing fingers at the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) in this matter, and the Opposition listing all the ways it believes the Government didn't do enough to stop the spread of COVID-19 locally. Finger pointers and the Opposition may have a point but is now really the best time for blame games and passing the buck?

Also, without resorting to knee jerk responses, what exactly are we doing to ensure that an instance like this doesn't become yet another famous Jamaican nine day wonder, only to happen again some time later? Have transportation systems been put to right or put in place for disabled commuting students at schools? Have all tertiary institutions locally done their checks and balances so that, so far as possible, no disabled commuting student will have their classes scheduled beyond a certain time of day or evening? Are we really doing all we can to ensure this doesn't happen again, even though it unfortunately has already happened?


School's out for now, but let's learn the lessons anyway, Jamaica.



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