Spring and the holiday of Passover are all about renewal and hope. This year, as our elders begin receiving the coronavirus vaccines and our economy appears to be recovering from the most critical disruption in living memory, things seem promising. We anticipate fleeing our bondage of social isolation and being transported to a land, if not of milk and honey, at least to a place of mixing and hugging.
We have (hopefully) learned a great deal. There have been many opportunities to benefit from the disruption in our lives. At the individual level, we may have learned new skills or crafts – like cross stitch or baking sourdough! – or used the time to study new fields or languages. On the collective level, we have learned that the entire world, regardless of governance, religion, language and every other difference, could mobilize (albeit not equally well) to respond to a crisis.
We also learned that, when necessary, many governments and societies could rise to the occasion (again, with different levels of competence) to save lives. Billions of dollars were “found” to save potentially devastated economies and support businesses and households. Scientists and medical professionals cooperated across boundaries to search for vaccines and to care for the ill. Ordinary people – not just first responders and others in the direct line of care but grocery clerks and those who provide services previously taken for granted – became heroes of the moment.
As the months dragged on, divisions emerged. People and their governments sometimes differed on the best responses, or any response at all. A cohort emerged questioning everything, from the best ways to stop the spread of the virus to the very existence of the virus that has infected more than 100 million and killed more than 2.5 million.
As we hopefully approach the beginning of the end of this extraordinary era, let us remember its beginning – not the fear of the unknown that engulfed us, but the unity the world seemed to exhibit in coming together to confront a danger that knows no borders.
Imagine the challenges we might be able to face and resolve if we could mobilize the world the way we did in those earliest moments of the pandemic. Can we come together to finally confront the climate emergency, which could be every bit as fatal as an unchecked virus if not addressed? Can we unite to overcome racial divisions and inequality? Can we even marginally close the chasm between richest and poorest in Canada and across the planet?
The incredible hurdle that was thrown across our civilization’s path a year ago showed our capacity for coming together when the stakes were high enough.
There are a lot of areas where the stakes are high. Can we take the lessons we’ve learned over the past 12 months and apply them there?