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Opinion / Storytellers

Going Inside: Lessons from Lockdown

basket of dried flowers in open-air market

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn on April 12, 2020.

The past several weeks have unfolded like few of us could have imagined. While the COVID-19 pandemic is a collective global experience and stark reminder of our inextricable ties across humanity, I have also noticed us splintering into our own sources of stress and circumstance. The ways in which we come together and pull apart as a society is heightened now, leaving us much to learn and carry forth into the other side of this crisis.

On March 10, when only large sports, entertainment, and conference events across the U.S. had been cancelled, I boarded a flight to vacation with my parents in Morocco, confident that with common sense personal health precautions we’d smoothly dodge the impact of the spreading virus.

But the following day the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global pandemic and as the world started shuttering down, Morocco took sweeping preventive measures to close its borders. Thousands of tourists were stranded without a method or timeline for getting home, and we found ourselves deeply impacted after all. While the U.S. Consulate offered bad advice and then little to no advice for days in a row, social media groups emerged in solidarity among those who were #StuckInMorocco to communicate, share experiences, and offer advice. One group of U.S. citizens circulated a petition, collecting nearly 18,000 signatures, and bringing public attention to our plight. Journalists caught notice and released national media coverage highlighting the lack of solutions, and family and friends of those affected called and tweeted their congress people to demand action, resulting in a letter from congress urging the federal government to act. After several long days of silence, the Consulate sent notice at midnight that the window of opportunity for evacuation flights would be that very day.

We scrambled and made it home, showering our British Airways rescuers with applause once we touched down in London en route to Los Angeles. While many things stick with me from this stressful adventure, one in particular I hope never to forget: the surge of citizen voices raising collective outrage to elected officials enacted a meaningful change on my behalf.

At home now we approach the peak of this outbreak, and as the levels and layers of stress continue to grow, the questions and learning opportunities keep rolling in. What lessons and experiences will remain with each of us from this experience?

Will the urgency of the stay at home order that is sometimes lost on the young and healthy among us, move us to systemically invest more thoughtfully in our youth to build social trust and reciprocation of good will? With our social inequities raw and exposed, will we work differently as changemakers and citizens to put the pieces of our society and systems back together to finally, meaningfully invest in our most vulnerable and marginalized communities? Will we learn to more readily honor and nurture our essential workforce that keeps our economies and safety nets alive? Will we activate our social privilege into social responsibility as we stay “safer at home?”

In this reckoning moment, we can no longer avoid the interconnectedness of our professional disciplines. As public health has become our central issue, homelessness is now a public health issue, criminal justice is a public health issue, immigration rights is a public health issue, and education is a public health issue. Will we rally enough social and political support to amplify and sustain a holistic approach to youth development, that addresses trauma and connects families with needed social services? The luxury of this breakdown is that we can more readily begin to imagine a new social fabric to weave that will hold all of us more tightly together, with fewer cracks and seams, bound as we are in a single existence.

As we heed the call to “go inside” let’s do so deeply and personally, by re-evaluating, resetting, recommitting, reprioritizing, and getting re-acquainted with our core values individually, professionally, and as a society. May we not squander this opportunity for growth and renewal as we create our new normal – we are in Spring after all, a season of rebirth. And I believe mother nature is cheering us on.

For breakfast, I had oatmeal with chopped apple, cinnamon, and soy milk.

Author: @aresnick

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