What if every very little thing is not going to be alright?
What if Bob was just trying to make us feel better but instead steered us away from the truth? The truth about life, especially as we experience it in 2020, is that life is difficult. There are challenges and there is suffering. In a culture that likes to be the masters of our own destiny it can be hard to comprehend that every little thing may not be alright. It’s hard to look that in the face.
We can see clearly that everything little thing is not going to be alright for the hundreds of thousands of people who have died from coronavirus. It is not going to be alright for those who weren’t able to say goodbye to loved ones due to travel restrictions as they passed away in hospital. It’s not going to be alright for those who are separated from family members due to hard borders being in place – parents missing out on seeing their kids grow and develop during one of the most challenging times in recent history. You can never get those times back. Saying ‘don’t worry about it’ to those people doesn’t seem to help and nor should it.
So what do we do? Do we just get sucked into the void of depression because ‘life sucks’, things are not always good and not everybody is nice? How do we continue to function? How can we keep putting one foot in front of another and finding the joy in life?
There is great power in naming something. When we can honestly name a situation or experience as tough, overpowering, challenging and just plain sh*t, there is an internal shift. It allows us room to experience the painful emotions, to sit with them and notice them for what they are – emotions that will pass. It’s not blame, it’s not loaded with outrage, it is just a time to express sadness and recognise that not everything is okay. When we can do that, it provides an emotional depth that creates a foundation of greater emotional joy.
Sometimes, everything isn’t going to be alright. But during those times, we don’t need to run from it or pretend it’s not happening, we can sit in it and even find joy in its midst.
Telephobia is real. It has research to back it up and everything. Essentially it is a fear of making phone calls, or of Teletubbies, perhaps both because they can both be terrifying. But about two thirds of people have experienced fear when answering a phone call, and about 20% say they feel it all the time. Perhaps you have experienced it at some level.
So we text. We avoid. And we put making a call off until later, when we feel like it.
The unfortunate part about that is we are hurting ourselves and others.
As we try to stay connected during this time of isolation and working from home, people are realising that digital conversations are just not cutting it. They are not meeting the need we have to be part of a community.
But making a phone call can. It’s the next best thing to meeting in person because hearing someone’s voice helps us feel connected and gives the sense that we belong, much more so than digital conversations.
If you are wondering about what you can do to help those around you during this global pandemic, an act of generosity is as easy as making a phone call. Reaching out to someone so they can hear your voice, talk about how they are going, and help them feel part of a community, can do wonders for them. And us. It is the antidote to loneliness. It may cause some anxiety for you to make the call but bringing joy to someone is worth the discomfort.
I’ve seen my fair share of generous acts. The one’s that stand out most are those that are initiated out of trying circumstances. There is something special about witnessing an act of strength out of a place of weakness. That’s what I would consider a generous act to be – one of strength.
I spoke to a supporter recently, just to check in and see how he was going in the current climate, hoping that he and his family were safe and healthy, which they were.
During the conversation, his concern turned to the people that Opportunity works with. Those living in poverty in India and Indonesia and how this global pandemic is affecting them, and what it could look like in the next few months. The truth is, we really haven’t seen anything close to what the impact the Coronavirus will have on developing countries, and these two specifically. My sense is that it will get a great deal worse before we see any light at the end of the tunnel which will have drastic implications on millions of people.
This supporter shared my concerns and agreed with this dire possibility. He said, ‘I like what Opportunity does and how you go about it. I will give again this year, and I will give more than I have before’.
I was blown away. We are still living with a great deal of uncertainty in Australia. No one really knows when things will turn around economically for us, but here was someone who was committing to an act of strength when surrounded by weakness. This type of generosity is so powerful that it impacts everyone it touches. I was inspired, and I know that what he will give will also inspire those living in poverty who will be on the receiving end.
I am a fan of the West Wing – the TV series that ran from 1999 to 2006 staring Martin Sheen as the President of the USA (wouldn’t we love him in the White House now?).
My favourite character is Josh Lyman. A witty, emotionally unstable, and hugely intelligent deputy chief of staff. There is one scene where he is waiting on polling numbers after the President gave a speech and there was delay after delay, even a blackout, pushing back the arrival of the data. To which he eventually yelled in growing frustration, to no one in particular, “I WANT THE NUMBERS!!!”. Did I mention emotionally unstable?
I have found myself saying the same thing every day over the last few weeks. Each afternoon I have patiently, and sometimes not so patiently, waited for the official announcement of the latest Covid-19 numbers. The new cases, total cases, the number of deaths and the number of people who have recovered. I have been hanging on every figure, every speech, every news article which might give me numbers, or at least some insight into what the numbers mean. Are we flattening the curve? Am I doing social distancing right? When can I get my hair cut?
Why? Why am I so invested?
I think it’s about progress. Getting somewhere. I have been looking for some indication of what we have been doing as a country over the last few weeks (has it really only been weeks? March was the longest decade ever), is actually making a difference. I long for a feeling of progress to make sense of the sacrifices we are all making. Tell me we are getting somewhere, and I will dig in and keep going. I will stay home longer. I will social distance. I will flatten that curve. But if I can’t see a point to it, or there is no sense of progress then you will have a hard time telling me to stay put.
Progress is vital in all areas of life. If we feel like we are moving towards something, then it is incredibly motivating, and we can take the next step. We can endure the most difficult and frustrating of circumstances if we feel like we are making progress.
It’s a question I have heard often over the last few weeks as we have seen people buying up big in preparation for the end of the world brought about by coronavirus. I must admit that it has been a bit confusing to watch people race for, and fill trolleys with, toilet paper and other inane items that 4 weeks ago were annoying necessities. What drives people to behave in such a way?
Apart from those that are purely taking advantage of this situation and profiteering (which I am choosing to assume is a very small percentage) people that are hoarding are doing so out of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of not having enough. Fear of scarcity. Fear of poverty. I can understand this fear. The word for 2020 so far is ‘unprecedented’. We have never experienced anything like this…in the developed world. (Millions of people go through upheavals of life regularly, but that is a conversation for another time). So, fear of not enough is understandable. But fear breeds more fear. Scarcity breeds scarcity. Scarcity subtracts.
To overcome the fear of hoarding requires acts of generosity. To look outside of our immediate needs and see those around us. Instead of acting as a single family unit we connect with those in our community and work as a larger entity. Together everyone achieves more (corny acrostic of T.E.A.M but has the added benefit of being true). When we act as a community, both locally and globally, it creates a generous mindset within us. Generosity comes from a hope that we can achieve things together that we are not capable of as individuals. Generosity breeds more generosity. Generosity multiplies.
When faced with the fear of scarcity, choose to act in generosity and it will have a positive, long lasting impact on our world.
Somewhere along the lines we decided that if we got something in return for being generous, then that wasn’t okay. For some reason it was thought that for an act to be a good thing to do then we should receive no benefit from it at all.
It’s an interesting thought and has led to hundreds of years of miserable generosity. So many people have been missing out experiencing the joy of giving purely because they thought it was wrong. There is a danger though. A danger of only doing a good thing for a completely selfish reason without concern for others at all. I think we can all admit that that behaviour feels wrong and we should probably avoid it.
In saying that, I consider some things too important to care about whether people are doing it for the right reason. Like ending poverty for example. Australia lives in amongst some of the poorest countries, they are our neighbours. Why should we care?
Well, here are two selfish reasons from Bill Gates:
For Our Safety
It is to our benefit to see developing countries improve their income which improves education. Education equals stability, and less reason for radical idealisation and terrorism.
Also, and this is a big one, if we can overcome poverty in developing countries this will lead to improved healthcare and less disease because they will be able to diagnose and treat diseases more effectively (did someone say Coronavirus?). If we can equip all countries with the best medical care, it will literally save our lives down the track.
2. For Our Prosperity
This should be a no-brainer for us, living in a capitalist society and all. If we have more countries overcoming poverty, creating extra income, then all of a sudden we have hundreds of millions of new potential customers for our products. In short, history shows us that a richer Japan equals a richer world. What about a richer Indonesia, or India, or Pakistan? We are leaving money on the table.
There are other non-selfish reasons as well, but surely these two are pretty significant by themselves.