Everyday I hear a different story from someone, about how their life has changed, or the lives of their loved ones. I have tried to capture their stories here, although I’m positive I’ve missed the perspectives of many who are battling equally hard to stay sane and healthy.
“Do you say thank you every time your water gets refilled?”, my friend asked me over dinner at a late-night Chinese restaurant. Our server had refilled my glass for the third time and we had barely finished our spring rolls. “Yes” I replied, “Why not?”. “I don’t know”, he said “Seems excessive”.
Now, admittedly, my love language is words of affirmation, so I often indulge in the powerful feelings words can offer; joy, appreciation, love. Of course, words can also be used for disempowerment, to cause pain. Did you ever conduct that class experiment where three people have a task to complete; one gets positive encouragement from their classmates, one gets negative, and the third gets utter silence? Silence. Silence, it turns out, is just as disempowering as deliberate negativity... can you believe that? Not saying thank you can be hurtful.
It takes but the tiniest effort for me, so I say thank you.
Perhaps our server was fed up with me saying thank you to him repeatedly (like the person walking in front of you that graciously holds open every single door along the corridor), but also, what if he wasn’t? Maybe some customers don’t say thank you at all? I don’t know whether he feels valued in his work, or his life. I don’t know that he’s not worried about his wife’s health, or if his daughter is being bullied, or whether his neighbor will find their missing cat. It takes but the tiniest effort for me, so I say thank you.
I have learnt recently, as one does through tumultuous personal experiences, that everyone is grieving something. It may be recent and raw or long scarred-over, but every single person holds or has held grief in their life. Even change for the better can carry feelings of grief. So perhaps that day at the restaurant I was feeling particularly enlightened to the world’s suffering and I was effortless with my gratitude. But some days I am not, many of us aren’t.
Today is a different world than that day at the restaurant though. Today, a heavy stone has fallen upon humanity and it is rippling across the globe. We are all hurting. Some of us have lost our jobs, our identities, our mortgage or rent payments. Others, a chance to participate in long-standing and meaningful celebrations and traditions. Some have lost the chance to say goodbye to friends or colleagues or their homes, or even hello to their newborn babies. Many have lost their only means of human contact, or hot meal for the day, or sense of safety and security. Some have even lost their freedoms, their choices, their loved ones, their lives. This is challenging for everyone in so many different ways, unprecedented rapid change… and change is hard.
If you are feeling helpless, you are not alone.
If you are feeling now, or have felt recently, like the ground is shaking under your feet and you cannot predict when it will stop, you are not alone. If you are feeling mad at others for not doing their part when it seems so simple, you are not alone. If you are worried about where your next meal or medications will come from, you are not alone. If you simply cannot fathom how you will figuratively, or literally, put one foot in front of the other, you are not alone. If you are feeling helpless, you are not alone.
Some Kind of Revolution...
So, try this. Say thank you. Thank you to the postman for continuing to deliver your mail. Thank you to the grocery store staff for stocking the empty shelves. Thank you to the drivers for allowing you to eat takeout at home, for transporting medicines to clinics, or hospital staff to the frontline. Thank you to those scrambling to shift millions of employees to online offices. Thank you to your children for coping with change. Thank you to every single member of society who is contributing in a tireless, selfless, enormous way, or in the tiniest way they know how. Thank everyone for showing up and being in this together. You will feel a whole lot better for it as we ride out the chaos and maybe, just maybe, the world will become a kinder place.
Kaitlin Tagg 💚
because we’re all part of the same community, even if we can’t yet see it.
P.S. Moments after I finished writing this, my dear friend called. “I’m leaving disinfectant spray on your front porch. Come out and get it”. She had been to the store for me, to pick up spray, because she knows my housemate is an ICU nurse and so we’re all at risk of exposure. She didn’t have to do that, break her own self-quarantine for me, or my housemates. I didn’t ask her to. But she did, because we’re all part of the same community, even if we can’t yet see it.
Kaitlin, like many of us in these uncertain times, was grappling with how she could be of service to humanity. This story of the magnitude of appreciation is an example that we do have capacity to start a revolution and stand together, even from a distance.
Thank you for your beautiful story Kaitlin.