I can already hear my family and friends saying, “There she goes again, Pollyanna”. Fair enough. I’ve heard that all my life, and I really don’t mind. In fact, I’m quite content to be labeled an incurable optimist. No matter how hard the universe seems bent on beating it out of me, I ain’t beat yet. Here I am still happy and hopeful, though no one would describe my life as trouble-free.
And today I sit at my laptop in my home office, feeling grateful and yes, hopeful, during this crazy pandemic. Not oblivious, not unconcerned, but hopeful. I am worried for the people I love, especially the elderly. I worry for my friends in Hong Kong and Japan and Italy. I pray they stay inside and stay safe. I worry for my friends in New York and London and other crowded cities, where keeping one’s distance is not always possible. Concerned, yes. Panicked: no.
Hopeful and thankful. Why now? Because these are times which make us stop and think. And because, thanks to prevailing safety measures, I now have no place to go. I have the time to sit and think and write – a rare luxury in my normally hectic schedule. The first thing that comes to mind is how lucky I am to be living where I live, when I live: here and now in Israel, in this digital age.
Reason #1: Public Safety. I live in a country that takes personal health, safety and security seriously. Here in Israel we’ve got strict restrictions in place, with the rules getting stricter daily. And most of us here are paying attention and following the guidelines. We Israelis are not usually known for our ability to follow rules. But when it comes to our safety, we grumble and then do as we’re told. We are a well-informed population, addicted to information and astute enough to separate fact from myth. We are constantly tuned in to world news, and so we understand that social distancing and hygiene are the only ways to protect ourselves. This is no small matter in our very physical Israeli society, where the concept of personal space is generally baffling. It takes all we can do to keep from backslapping or hugging each other when we meet. But we are adjusting, laughing at ourselves as we try out different elbow and toe bumps. Meanwhile, our over-burdened public health system is still functioning, thanks, in no small part to the incredibly dedicated medical professionals who are putting their own safety at risk to help others.
Reason #2: Community. I live in a city with modern conveniences just outside my door. I can walk to a supermarket, pharmacy, fresh vegetable market and more. And I can choose to do my shopping whenever I please, opting for early mornings, when the markets are less crowded and the shelves are well-stocked. If need be, I can have supplies delivered to my door. And for all the fears we may have had about shortages and price gouging, I am experiencing none of that. In fact, yesterday I noticed that my market was selling cleansers, hand sanitizers and latex gloves at a discount, when they could easily have raised the prices. I live in a building where neighbors look out for one another, offering to do the shopping for elderly neighbors or recently returned travelers, now in isolation. I am thankful that I live in a connected and caring community. This is no accident. I could have moved out of this old building some time ago, out of this neighborhood in this slightly run-down section of town, but I decided to stay because I like my community. Lucky me.
Reason #3: Livelihood. I am one of the lucky ones who can work from home. Here I sit with my laptop in my sunny living room. No need to travel on public transportation to get to work. I’m lucky that I have a job that can be done remotely: teaching online. I’ll miss the fun of visiting client sites and teaching groups and individuals there. But at least I’m able to keep working. And now, with most of my students housebound, they have more time to spend with me online. I’m grateful to be doing something useful. Being able to stay focused, engaged and productive while we’re all stuck inside is truly a gift. Of course, there is less work for me now than there was before this crisis, and I know this situation will get worse before it gets better. But for as long as I can keep working, I will. Sadly, this is not the case for most people here in Israel and abroad. So many people are unable to support themselves, since they cannot get to their places of work, or because their companies have had to shut their doors. Having the luxury of working from home: Reason #3 to be thankful.
So as I sit here in my comfortable living room, writing and sipping my coffee, I am overcome with thankfulness for everything I have. Yes, I’m concerned for the people in the world who do not live in these circumstances: Those living in crowded cities, those who cannot afford to stay home from work, those without adequate healthcare, those who do not have modern conveniences just outside their doorsteps. For everyone’s sake, I pray that this pandemic will pass with as little devastation as possible. I pray people will follow common sense guidelines and stay safe. Personally, I am thankful for my present circumstances and hopeful for the future. Pollyanna unrepentant, inside and online.