It's difficult to find an apt comparison for the situation we find ourselves in. Some politicians have used WWII, and this is probably a fair comparison. America has offered up her sons and daughters on numerous occasions since the war to end all wars, but the pandemic we find ourselves in is perhaps the first time we find day to day life so altered here. While our grandparents were fortunate that the brave actions of our servicemen and women kept the war largely “over there”, the situation did drastically affect things here at home. For several years, life changed here in America because of that horrible conflict. That, perhaps, is why many are using it as a comparison and rallying cry for our current predicament. Like the Second World War, this pandemic is absolutely going to alter our way of life for a while. Many of the simple things that we just take for granted will, for a time, be but a pleasant memory.
The worst part may be the waiting. Preparing for a storm or other natural disaster is different. There's always a chance that a storm may change course; it might miss us. The virus is different. It's coming to our community. It's not a question of if it will hit, but of when and how hard. It is certain that all our lives will be affected, and we will not be the same when this is over.
Our grandparents and great-grandparents weathered the war. They gathered an incredible resolve, sailed overseas, and struck down an oppressive, genocidal regime that murdered millions. In the intervening decades, we've memorialized their many feats of bravery and sacrifice; and rightfully so.
It was a time that left scars; scars that generation carried for the rest of their lifetime. Like them, we will all carry the scars of this situation with us. Our children will tell their children stories of how this horrid pandemic altered their lives.
But tragedy and hopelessness are the breeding grounds of heroes. Our generation has the opportunity to respond to this threat in a way that will make our descendants proud to call themselves Americans. We can choose to act with courage that will become a part of the American story and echo through the generations that succeed us.
The virus is not like the Nazis. We can't hit, strike or bomb it. It can’t be largely contained overseas by a brave portion of our population. It will come, and it will affect our lives. But we can fight back. In this war, our weapons are love, self-sacrifice, and heart-felt concern for our neighbors. In any desperate situation, there is a tendency to preserve one's self, no matter the cost to our fellow man. We can resist that temptation and, instead, act in ways contrary to our own self-interest to help others. From skipping a vacation to "social distance", to ensuring our elderly neighbor has food to eat, there are countless ways we can display qualities that will make our descendants proud. Already, in our own community, first responders are calmly planning for ways to continuing protecting the community, knowing that some of them will fall victim to the virus in the process. Medical personnel are suiting up to work endlessly over the next few months, preparing to provide aid and comfort to those affected, even as they place themselves in harm’s way. Just as importantly, countless churchless, service organizations and individuals are picking up the phone and asking “how can I help?” As the parts of our system we take for granted grind to a halt, they are searching for ways to ensure the most vulnerable amongst us are taken care of. They’re arranging for the elderly to be fed. They’re making sure children are taken care of. In countless ways, they’re looking to overcome the human tendency of self-preservation and take care of others during this time of challenge.
This pandemic is no laughing matter. It is a scary situation. But we can decide now that we will conduct ourselves with honor, courage and service to our fellow man during this crisis. We are faced with an incredible challenge, but it holds within it the opportunity to conduct ourselves in a manner that will echo proudly through history. We can’t control most of the frightening things happening around us right now, but we can control the way we respond to it. Will history judge us as fearful and selfish, or as a generation that responded with honor and courage?