I was born to parents who came of age during World War II. While growing up, my mom told me stories of living with the rationing of gasoline, coffee and other items. My dad served in the Navy, on a cargo ship in the Pacific. No doubt, he faced days where fear and loneliness were present. I have great admiration for that generation, particularly for their ability to make personal sacrifices and pull together for a common cause. Their job: defeat a force that threatened the security and future of the entire world.
In August of 2001 our local blood bank conducted several blood drives because donations were down and as a result, blood supplies were at low levels. Then Sept. 11 happened. Once we recovered from the initial shock, we wanted to help in any way that was within our power. People began donating blood; so much so that the blood bank, sadly, had to actually throw blood away. We witnessed firsthand how this event in our history brought us together in a way that many of us had never witnessed. In our personal lives, it gave us a chance to reflect on what was truly important. As a society, it gave us a common goal: overcome the threatening evil of terrorism.
Within the last few weeks, a new enemy has swiftly and unexpectedly entered our world: the coronavirus. As the situation escalated day by day, sometimes hour by hour, we were jolted into our new reality. Tanks and guns will not help with this threat. Instead, we’ve been asked to distance ourselves from one another. We’ve been asked to change the way we live, at least for the next few weeks. In recent White House press conferences, doctors Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci of the Coronavirus Task Force, have expressed with conviction their concerns that young people may feel they are “invincible,” or at the least, less likely to become seriously ill, and that in making these assumptions, they may not be taking social-distancing to heart. These doctors expressed their view that all of us have a social responsibility to each other, and they warned that “we cannot do this without the cooperation of the young people.” From protecting our own loved ones to contributing to the stop of the spread at large, every single generation has a role to play.
Their pleas touched me, and got me really thinking about the battle that all of us are engaged in. Our job, in words of the experts, is “to knock this thing out.” We’ve watched as classes have been cancelled and schools shut down, non-essential businesses close their doors, sporting events and crowd-drawing activities, cancelled, elective travel become almost non-existent. I have friends and family members who have been impacted by the cancellation of long-awaited special events such as high school graduation and a wedding. Many of you know people in that situation, or you are in that situation yourself. We have never seen anything like this. Our children, unable to play with friends or even go to school, are learning to “shelter-in-place.” Yes, it is hard for them. But here exists a golden opportunity: we can frame this ordeal for our kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews and other children we mentor, in a way that will help them understand the magnitude of their contribution. By sheltering-in-place and practicing social distancing when outside their homes, they are not only protecting themselves and their loved ones, they are literally contributing to a crucial, global cause.
All generations are in this together. The degree to which we are successful in our sacrifice may determine how well we survive this health and economic crisis. With our examples from the past to look to, and lessons we are learning today from what has and hasn’t worked in other countries, it is my hope we will rise to the occasion. It’s up to us. This is our moment.
Cindy works as an employment development counselor and is a mother and grandmother. She has lived in Sonoma County for 28 years.