As the days have turned to weeks, and into months, the lessons we are learning as a people about surviving Covid-19 together just keep coming. I am a member of various text chains with different family groups and with some friends, touching base fairly regularly to encourage each other virtually. Not being on Facebook, this is my way of staying in touch besides phone calls.
I was especially touched this week by a photo of my 8 year old great niece showing us in the palm of her hand a new baby chick, one of a group of recently bought chicks presumably to be raised by her and her family. It prompted me to think of how much better equipped my great niece will be for what may lie ahead in her lifetime when compared to my children’s preparation for these days now upon us.
The life experiences of the Greatest Generation, those born in the 1900s through the 1920s, included living through the Great Depression, their young years enduring and fighting in WW2, and the other wars and times that followed. They knew food rationing, the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, stock market crashes, losing all, rebuilding, quarantining for polio, small pox, tuberculosis, along with the flapper years of unbridled excesses. They raised us with their psyches rooted in harsh realities and conservatism but wanting more for their children.
My generation raised our children with sometimes unbridled optimism and an expectation of success. We instilled in them a great sense of confidence, feelings of self determination, the expectation of unlimited possibilities, endless resources, setting up more recent generations to world views of entitlement, expectation of wealth, in some cases, culminating in lives of elaborate excesses, the “Me” generation and our progeny. Other than Gen Z and some younger Millennials whose childhood memories include 9/11 and the roller coaster years that have followed, most people today are far less prepared for the Coronavirus than have been earlier generations.
Naturally, generations cannot be summarized in soundbites, the results being gross generalizations. Yet I don’t think my Atari Pong and Space Invaders focused children would have been as enthralled with that baby chick as is their much younger cousin. Or perhaps they would have been had their outside opportunities for distractions been restricted as they are today. My great niece experiencing such dramatic limitations on her life choices at such a young age may imprint her in a way not yet fully understood by her, or the recent generations before hers, in a way that will better equip her for the adversities that may arise during her lifetime.
The point is that this youngest generation who will be experiencing the local and global changes that naturally will result from the Coronavirus will be better prepared for the next pandemic, the next curve ball life throws personally and societally. Additionally, those in the few generations before her will benefit from a reset of their unrealistic expectations that certain things in life are a given. They, too, are acquiring visceral learning that this planet has limited financial capacity, human resources, production ability, health care systems, and ecological resources. The Millennials were already experiencing some of these truths as their standard of living was edging lower than that of their parents – less jobs, more debt. The Coronavirus wake up call has brought the point irrefutably home, a much needed reality check on many levels bringing hope that some very much needed reordering of personal and societal priorities will result. We are the stewards of this planet charged with a divine mission to cherish and nurture it with HaShem at the helm, and to bring our fellow journeyers closer to Him.
My great niece’s life will not be as easy as it has been up until now. She will, at least for some period of time, not be going to the mall and the movies, eating out, socializing in person with her friends. She will be spending good one-on-one time with her siblings and parents at home instead of at work. The beauty of that little chick’s tiny cheeps will fill her days with joy and without a myriad of distractions. She and her family will work together to grow and make some of their own food and necessities, will treasure local buying in a way they may have previously taken for granted, will cherish the gift of the closeness of their nearby grandparents just a little more. She may someday see how HaShem redemptively used technology and social media that previously lured many into cell phone virtual conversations over the person sitting right at their table to now bring them together as the only completely safe means of interaction.
So as the times restore to normalcy in the future, she will be grateful for the small things in a way she may not have felt before times were not so plentiful. The seeds for an attitude of gratitude will have been nurtured. She may cherish more what my children came to expect. She may gain a sense that something outside of just mankind’s choices play into the realities of our existence, that we do not control our destiny, that our choices matter as we co-create with the Divine.
It’s not too late for all of us to understand what to her may become her developing world view – that life’s treasures are in the simple, small things, in the love of the miracle of life, and in the love we are naturally drawn to feel as we embrace it, so perfectly symbolized by the cuddle of that tiny chick in the small palm of her hand, the smile on a child’s face.
The love He has for all of us.