Reflections on the COVID-19 Pandemic
First of all, how are you doing? (Hint, there’s no right answer.)
Over the past week and a half my inbox has been flooded with messages from organizational leaders attempting to be reassuring, informative and/or inspiring. This has got me reflecting on who we think of as leaders, what we expect from them and why?
In times of uncertainty, it’s natural to want answers and to gravitate toward experts. (I’m all ears every time a public health expert comes on the news.) But the truth is we’re in a novel situation, unlike anything any of us have experienced in our lifetimes. So yes, it’s good to stay informed and to heed the advice of people who know a thing or two about the spread of infectious disease, but it’s also okay not to know: how to keep our loved-ones safe, how to be of service or what the future will hold. In these early weeks of community spread and social-distancing, I am giving myself permission to sit with the not knowing, and I encourage you to do the same.
That said, there are some important things we do know as restorative practitioners and advocates. We know that we’re relational beings, that we need each other and that we’re profoundly interconnected. And the current situation is providing opportunities to glimpse these truths…and their opposites: individualism, greed, disconnection, inequality and fear of “the other.”
My friend Peter at the Restorative Justice Fund in L.A. recently reflected on his experience as a college student in NYC on September 11, 2001 and how it compares to the present moment. It resonated with me because I was here on 9/11 and I’ve seen all the ways that event and it’s aftermath harmed New Yorkers and many others around the world, and subsequent ways we repaired the harm and transformed our city for the better…and for the worse.
What if this time we can hold onto the beautiful learning hidden in all of this uncertainty and fear? What if we can rise up to the challenge posed to us at this moment, stop coronavirus in its tracks, and then take it one step further by using it to build a society of caring, of compassion, of responsibility to each other and the world we live in? There is an extraordinary opportunity here…[and] it reveals itself again now in the terrible anxiety caused by an invisible virus.
There has never been a better time to re-commit ourselves to each other; we don’t really have any other option. And once this turbulence passes, as it must, we will be ready to do the important work of healing our world. That is our responsibility as people, no matter who we are or where we live. Our responsibility is to people; that’s about as restorative justice as you can get. I hope we can remember that as we move forward together into the uncertain, terrifying, wonderful future.
Exactly! Remember that even while schools are closed, program priorities are shifting and the future is anybody’s guess, our work is just as important as ever, if not more so. Our work is going to look different and we may not know how, but as June Jordan said, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” At Restorative Justice Initiative we look forward to working with you to find the opportunities for healing and transformation in the midst of the widespread sickness and loss that’s still to come. Stay well and stay connected.