The headlines, closings, and feelings of panic cannot be ignored. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is here and its impact will be pressed upon us in the days, months, and even years ahead. We’ve all seen the warnings, predictions, and reactions. There are plenty of sources to get details on the why, the what, and the where of it. This post is a call to pause for just a moment and see the silver lining in the global pandemic associated with COVID-19. 

Wake Up Call

At its heart, the Coronavirus outbreak is a wake up call. For all of the fear, uncertainty, and doubt, the reality is that it is doing what most disease does: targeting the most vulnerable members of the human race. Though this is terrible, it has been the same throughout history. We live with it every day even when there is not a global cry to deal with the various threats to the health of our most vulnerable. Today, we are laser-focused on the Coronavirus and our heightened awareness keeps it at the front of our fearful minds. 

The wake up call is good news in the sense that it is preparing us for something even scarier. Imagine a Coronavirus that was equally devastating to the strongest of our species. Coronavirus is a practice run for something more dangerous and we have an opportunity to learn from the process. Today, we are coordinating efforts internationally, nationally, statewide, and locally. The outbreak is testing our capacity to respond and forcing us to move rapidly and intelligently. We will make mistakes. We will fail in many ways. We will also learn a lot about how to deal with an outbreak of this sort and be much more prepared for the next one. If our resourcefulness is found slow or lacking with coronavirus, we will grow through it.

Loss of Normalcy

Another silver lining of Coronavirus is the loss of normalcy. We are being forced out of routines, comfort zones, and the day-to-day activities that comprise our normal life. The disruption is forcing us to disconnect in many ways and reconnect in new ones. “Social distancing” has become the buzzword of the day and we’ll all have it ingrained into our psyche so fully that it might be difficult to return to what we once called normal. However, we are also getting the chance to see normal in a new light.

One aspect of our new view is an appreciation for those little things in our lives that are now a bit more challenging. Toilet paper shortages? Really? Yep. How long has it been since you looked at a roll of toilet paper and felt gratitude for its presence in your life? We are looking at travel differently, going to school differently, and even gathering in groups differently. I already miss the feeling I had a few weeks ago when I felt I could safely hop on an airplane whenever I like. Such is the power of fear, and prudence. We now look at interacting with other humans a bit differently: I’d really like to shake your hand but how do I know when you last washed it? Even going to church, we look around and wonder if that sneeze in the pew behind us inadvertently coated us with something we just don’t want. Ah, the good old days.

In our loss of normalcy, we get a different look at our life and the chance to see it with new perspective. Here we can adjust to our new normal while also appreciating the little things in our life that so often go un or under appreciated. Even our interactions can take on a new life as we cast them in the context of the new while seeking the comfort of the old. Silver lining? Only if you choose to see it that way.

Other Risks Highlighted

With Coronavirus, we are also seeing dangers beyond our health and wellbeing. Disruptions in our supply chain will ripple across the world for months to come. With the outbreak, we are seeing the very real downside to outsourcing most of our production capability to a country with different standards for food, hygiene, and regulation. China has a different infrastructure, different traditions, a different regulatory environment, and different social norms than the United States. As much as it has changed over the course of the last 25 years, it is still a different world from the one we know in the West. Did those differences play a role in the outbreak? Probably. Are there similar risks in other countries in which we’ve shifted parts of our economic engine? Quite likely.

In the near term, we will be faced with difficulties getting products that we consider staples. Those whose livelihoods depend on factories in heavily affected countries will face challenges in serving their customers. Even our medical infrastructure will face shortages as goods are stockpiled, stolen, or limited based on the impact to production facilities worldwide. Suddenly, we see the downstream economic impact upon one region explode across the globe while we wonder: what else is beyond our control or even our influence?

The silver lining here is that discussions will begin about how to mitigate such risks in the world of tomorrow. There will be many, many lessons in how we move forward to meet immediate needs as well as how we evolve to avoid similar problems in the future. Perhaps we’ll decide that we need to consider far more than direct costs when we make decisions on where to put our facilities . Would the challenges be avoided if we had more capacity in the United States? I don’t know. I do know that it is worthy of debate.

A New Vulnerability

The Coronavirus outbreak happened really quickly. Intellectually, we knew it was a possibility but it felt remote, particularly in the United States. Now, the game has changed. A new and very real vulnerability has come upon us and we are reeling. The direct cost of life will be devastating and the impact won’t stop there. The economic and other downstream effects could be devastating in different ways to many more. In the process, we will all feel more vulnerable. 

How do we respond to this new vulnerability? We need to remember that we are not in control. We command so much that it is hard to imagine losing that control. Until we already have. Humility is a good place to start. We need to continue to respect the power of nature and our place within it. Despite our power and technical prowess, there are still mysteries and we have so much to learn. The opportunity is to expand our efforts to learn more and be as prepared as we possibly can for what lies ahead. 

With this new vulnerability, we are called to draw together as a community to figure out how we protect one another. How do we protect the most vulnerable among us? What is the responsibility of the strong to those more susceptible? In the midst of the fear and uncertainty, we must recognize our duty to directly and indirectly protect those in our local, regional, national, and global family. Though there are bad actors out there trying to take advantage of the situation, the real enemy is a little virus bent on wreaking havoc with we humans. Recognizing this is an opportunity. Awareness is actually a gift.

Silver Linings

Coronavirus has gifted us with the opportunity to feel vulnerable as a world community and test our ability to unify and mobilize in the face of a global threat.  It will not destroy us but will push us hard toward answering many questions and improving how we prepare for and respond to future threats. Threats that might be even more dangerous. The outbreak will force us to pause for a moment and worry about the basics. In the face of such fear, even survival is not to be taken for granted. That pause is a massive gift in a world that takes so much for granted.  No matter the inconvenience, misery, and fear, it will give us the chance to press forward smarter and stronger for the experience. 

We will learn many things. I pray that we take them to heart and remember them. 

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