“No, this pandemic is not a war. Nations do not oppose other nations nor soldiers against other soldiers. It is a test of our humanity.” – German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
At first glance, the COVID-19 pandemic can look like a great separator or an example of how fractured our world has already become. Across the globe, there are vast disagreements on how each nation should be caring for those falling ill and how preparations should be made to prevent COVID-19’s spread.
However, if you look closely, this pandemic offers a remarkable once-in-a-lifetime sense that we are all in this together.
Muhammad Ali spoke to Harvard graduates in 1975. He was asked for a short poem by the crowd. He responded with the indescribably perfect, “Me. We.”
Each day that passes during the COVID-19 emergency is another where we can live the spirit of this poem. Sheltering in place, each of us protects ourselves and our loved ones. Each trip outside our homes forces us to acknowledge our impact on the greater whole.
The explosion in neurological research of the last decade has made the phrase “creating new neural pathways” a staple among educators and political communicators. Taking a new action or connecting new thoughts and ideas, creates fresh connections in the brain. Eventually, these new pathways begin as a tiny dirt path through our mental forest but can become a four-lane road across our mental expanse.
This COVID crisis can create a new norm of global collaboration. We can imagine, build, and eventually rely on these new global information pathways and perspectives to guide how nations, people, and even families can work together. This new way of being in the world together can be whatever we choose. Why not make it an international community that continues to situate the “me” as part of the greater “we”?
With Shavuot just around the corner, the moment we received the Torah can serve as a model. Rashi said that when the Jewish People stood at Mt. Sinai they were “like one man with one heart.”
Together we can mourn. Together we can prepare. Together we find ways to laugh. Together, we can dream about a world united once and for all.