I don’t know how many times in the last two weeks I have heard the phrase, “When we get back to normal,”…
Here’s the thing, I don’t think that is reality. I don’t think there will be a going “back to normal.”
It’s not that I believe we are going to live a Hunger Games like existence or in quarantine like manner for the rest of our lives. Like every other event and era throughout history, there has been a beginning and there will be an end to this current circumstance we are in. This crisis, like countless before it, will subside. However, we are now changed. Society is now changed. Government is even changed. The world is different already.
We have used the term “small world” countless times in our lives. We now understand just how “small” and connected and even inter-dependent we really are.
Of course, there are people who see this as an opportunity to prove and or advance one agenda or another. Some are good. Some are not. Some are just an agenda.
The truth is, there are things that should change through all of this. Real conversations need to take place about the honest sharing of information among countries. Our world is too inter-connected for countries to think they can hide public health threats or cover them up in any way. Better, more open, and faster collaboration among governments and healthcare professionals would have saved lives and possibly economies.
This could lead to one of two responses by governments as we come out of this should it last as long as some are suggesting it will.
One, we will see a greater sense of unity and “we are in this together” as a race. Of course there will be wildly different opinions as to what it means and the best path forward, but we will understand the need to move forward together.
Two, countries will become more divided and more suspicious and travel more restrictive. this will lead to paranoia and conflict and the dark side of humanity and government.
I actually think a third possibility will win out and it is some combination of the two. Some countries will ban together and try to move us forward with some sense of togetherness. Yet others will isolate and blame and clamp down on their citizens.
Whatever happens, it will not be the same as it was a few months ago.
I would love to believe that this will bring more unity across political divides within countries including the United States. How great would it be if liberals and conservatives and progressives and moderates could all find a way to set aside the personal attacks and attack the real problems. How amazing to see politicians become leaders that serve the country instead of agendas and special interests.
The best thing that could come out of this may be too much to ask. Our history does not give me a ton of hope that the root will change. But, if it could: Wow! That would be something. The best thing that could come from all of this is for people at all levels and walks of life start treating others with dignity and respect.
We have become so rude and self focused. We see it on the roads every day. (Well, every day we are not under stay at home orders.) We see it in stores and on social media and in the media.
I do not expect or even hope that we will all begin to agree on everything. I actually think the tension of disagreement handled well makes us better.
I do have hope for respect. What if we began to attack problems and not people? What if we stopped vilifying those we disagree with and work toward actually resolution?
Truth is there is often truth on both sides. The full truth is very often a combination of the two. We rarely see ourselves as the villian. The same is true for the other person. Usually both are trying to do what they believe is right. So let’s roll up our sleeves and do the real work of figuring out what is the right path forward.
Here’s the truly tricky part. To accomplish this we have to become unoffendable. We also have to be approachable and be willing to set aside preconceived notions to take an objective look at things. We have to use emotions, not be driven by them.
Within the team I am on, we have a cultural behavior and thought about offense. “If someone is not trying to offend me, then why should I be offended? If they are trying to offend me, then they are a jerk and their punishment for being a jerk is they don’t get to offend me.”
This takes intentionality and strength and a thick skin to be sure. Yet, it is rooted in the desire to do what is best for the person and the organization. It comes from the knowledge that no one person is always right or has all the answers. Sorry not sorry if that is a revelation to you about yourself. It is true.
We can learn something from anyone. We should be seeking to learn and understand before being understood. We should never demand to be right or demand to be understood without first having understanding.
Yes, if we could come out of this with a new appreciation for life and relationships and a posture of respect and dignity toward others, then the new reality will be better than the old normal.