Do you remember 9/11?
I sure do. After 19 terrorists attacked us with hijacked planes, fear gripped the nation. Parents rushed to pick their kids up from school. People flooded Army-Navy stores, snatching up gas masks and other military gear, while cellphone sales surged all over the country. One of my friends saw a doctor for anxiety medication, and another said she started putting on weight. “I’m feeding my anxiety,” she confessed.
Later, as the clouds of panic lifted, I saw something else. I saw flags waving, candlelight vigils held, places of worship filled. I saw people organizing supply drives to help the people of New York. I witnessed unity.
And then it faded away.
I see something similar in the midst of our current health scare. When news got out about the virus spreading, people panicked. Crowds have inexplicably wiped out toilet paper supplies (pun intended). Hand gel and surgical masks began flying off the shelves – and in some cases, being stolen. I have seen folks on social media complaining that they can’t go to games or the movies, with no regard for those who have been sickened by the virus.
Slowly but surely, though, I am seeing something else: neighbors delivering groceries to the elderly, sports celebrities making huge donations to help arena workers, kids creating get-well cards for the quarantined. It seems that when a national crisis hits, we are at our worst – and we are at our best.
But maybe, just maybe, this could change. Maybe after the coronavirus plays out (and it will), we could continue caring for each other. Maybe we could stop ripping each other on social media, choosing not to pass along that demeaning meme or knock someone down who holds a different view than our own. Maybe we could step down from our pedestals of arrogance and pride, and decide to be kind and humble. Maybe we could fill our churches and synagogues again, shaking the rafters with praise as we come together in worship.
Maybe we could be better.