I recently landed at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. I called an Uber and waited curbside for it. When the Uber arrived, I did the customary dance of moving to the rear of the car to load my luggage. The driver popped out of the car (still part of the dance), and I noticed he had a mask on. In the spirit of reciprocity, I followed suit by pulling up my cycling bandana so that my face was covered. He took one look at me and said, “Uh uh … You’re not getting in my car,” jumped back in the driver’s seat and sped off. Apparently, my face mask didn’t meet his self-set standards. These are the times we are currently in.
Today, there are roughly forty million unemployed Americans. And yet for my day job, connecting people with work, we are struggling to find people to take jobs. These are the times we are currently in.
There’s some kind of new hybrid hornet (let the conspiracy theorists subscribe to an origin from a Wuhan lab) that infiltrates honey bee hives and decapitates the poor bees. Can’t the honey bee population catch a break these days? As if they haven’t dealt with enough catastrophes decimating their population, and now they have to deal with the hornet version of Jack the Ripper? These are the times we are currently in.
I hear the phrase “the other side of this” frequently bantered about these days. My mind immediately goes to the relevant question: “How do we know there is another side?” Are we basing this on the “other side” of the Spanish flu pandemic, the aftermath of the Black Death bubonic plaque that rendered Europe some of its darkest-ever days in the 1300s? What’s our competitive set?
Now, of course, we can be optimistic and even hopeful there is another side to this. And I most certainly fall into this camp. There is, however, an ambiguity to the “other side” that should be painfully obvious. The blueprint does not exist. It’s an open canvas, and we are the artist in charge of painting a new masterpiece. Quite the daunting task, isn’t it? It’s already so difficult to look into the future while we are living week by week, day by day, hour by hour and in some cases (such as our front-line workers), minute by minute. Something is happening right now, though, that puts me in the optimistic camp. Adverse times force revised thinking to commence. They bring out the creative juices and ingenuity that solve problems not by looking in the rearview, but by looking forward. So many exemplars exist that it’s impossible to call them all out, but here are a few: People making masks out of everyday household items. Compressing the time it takes to create a preventive vaccine from three years to potentially twelve months. Manufacturers who made labels retrofitting their facilities to develop COVID-19 test kits. Technology apps being built in a matter of weeks to assist in more robust contact tracing. And even our beloved honey bees have developed hot bee balls that fry those murderous hornets, thus turning the tables on the wannabe executioners.
My son turned one year old last week. We celebrated with a socially distant party in the park. Adults had mimosas, the kids had cupcakes and everybody was happy. At one point, I remember pausing and forcing myself to be in the present. I took in the scene. It was grounding, humbling, piercingly real and yet somewhat … inspiring. I couldn’t help but crack a smile that only widened as a pervasive thought kept running through my head. We Homo sapiens are absolutely tenacious. The human species is undeniably defensive of our right to live. And that is encouraging. That makes me optimistic. That makes me hopeful for my son’s life and his generation to live on “the other side.” For even with great loss, we mourn, stand up, dust ourselves off, rally our mental states and come back stronger.
So let’s keep the creativity, the thoughtfulness, the caring, the empathy and the ingenuity coming. It’s good to be hopeful; it’s even better to be pragmatic, resilient and resolute on ensuring a better tomorrow arrives for current and future generations. Our species is in full execution mode on our right to live. And just like the honey bees, we will encircle our enemy and defeat it soundly.