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Chatterbox: Perspective and prospects


Our world is in a great crisis.

We may feel panicked in the face of this fearsome and unknown virus, but the odds are in our favor if we are calm, cautious and prepared. Humans have managed many crises in our time. We must remain sensible and tenacious, but panic is just detrimental.

Certainly, this medical dilemma could’ve come at a time when America was better prepared. In the past, our Center for Disease Control was larger, better staffed and prepared for disease investigation and control, and FEMA was better staffed and funded for rescue and repair. Still, America is working in the best way she can.

Many times the end of the world came ... just, not for everybody. World War II was only one of the many disasters we’ve recovered from. The Jewish Library records estimate Hitler killed over 6 million Jewish men, women and children, and over 16 million other civilians and POWs. There were soldiers and civilians killed in the war itself. For them, all was lost; for the rest, all seemed lost. Food and many other essentials were harshly rationed or gone, but people survived and, eventually, life was normalized again.

This virus is different because it has no mind to analyze or plans we can penetrate with spies, but it is less threatening for the same reasons. It’s a prisoner to its own properties and, once analyzed, we’ll know all its patterns.

According to the Center for Disease Control: Cancer alone kills over a half million people a year in America; nearly 650,000 Americans die every year from heart disease – over 18 million Americans have it; over 10,000 Americans are killed by drunk drivers (while not one car company anywhere in the world has installed the long available technology to end impaired driving); over 15,000 Americans a year die by gun violence according to several sources; and hundreds of thousands of Americans are homeless.

We have no control over this virus, but we also have no control over who is killed by a driver who is drunk, sleepy, distracted, or drug affected. We have no control over whom diseases attack or where an unstable shooter may show up armed with a rapid fire weapon. We have no control over most of everything every day.

So, what can we do? First, a moment to stop and think is best. We must remember that things like this have happened before and will happen again. Because of communications, today we hear too much news too fast. This extent of news from all around the world would have taken months to reach us a century ago. So much information so fast is a huge advantage, but it’s also the reason we’ve had no time to adjust.

Second, we must remember that over-reacting won’t improve or change anything; only being sensible and responsible will work to the benefit of everyone. Third, we must remember that some of the best work, improvements, discoveries, medicines, and regulations ever done, made, or implemented were due to a time-pressured crisis.

I read a wonderful piece this morning by Gretchen Schmelzer, Ph.D. Her credentials are impressive and far too numerous to mention, but she blogs too. She reminded her readers that, during the Apollo 13 crisis,

“... Gene Kranz, the lead flight director overheard people saying that this could be worst disaster NASA had ever experience – to which he is rumored to have responded, ‘With all due respect, I believe this is going to be our finest hour.’ Imagine if we could make our response to this crisis our finest hour.”

Perhaps, as these days go by, those of us hunkering down can pray more, be more introspective, or state gratitude. We can seek and find our better self, accomplish those things we always say we don’t have time for and, especially, get quality time with loved ones ... even if it’s only by phone.

Yes, things are going to be hard, but the world’s population, Americans included, have all seen “hard” before. Many still see it every day, and we will all see it again, repeatedly throughout life. In this particular case, some of us won’t be okay. That’s a horrible truth, but life never offers any guarantees anyway.

We’re going to have a very different life for an unknown period of time, and hopefully we’ll be wiser and kinder for it. Whatever happens, we do know that most of us will be okay, however long it takes. What’s most important is how we respond. It’ll be what we have to live with.