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  • Writer's pictureDev Friedlander

Not My Problem?

When the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) broke out in Wuhan, China in January, I read the news story with a sympathetic detachment. I hoped they would find a way to stop the spread of the virus and that not too many people would be affected. Then I clicked on to the next news story. China and the virus seemed so distant from my life.

As the weeks went by, more cases were reported in the news, in more countries. Panic seemed to rise, air travel was restricted, and notices of the symptoms of the virus were placed prominently in doctor’s offices. Despite all that, I felt the situation was overblown. We had lived through the Mad Cow Disease scare, the Bird Flu, and other various illnesses that came and went from the news. This virus too would pass, I thought, and everyone would be all right. Then my turn came.

My husband, our three daughters and I had been looking forward to traveling to a family reunion arranged almost six months ago. When our plane tickets were canceled, we rebooked on another route, unwilling to give up too quickly. For three full days, we had an alternate route in place, but those tickets were canceled too. And then I was forced to face the fact that Coronavirus was now my problem.

Feelings of sadness and disappointment welled up inside me. I had wanted so much to see all my Aunts, Uncles, and cousins. But then I felt ashamed. I felt embarrassed that while the virus had taken lives, livelihoods, and freedom of movement for thousands of others; I only became sad when it took away my air travel.

The Coronavirus taught me that the degree of separation between each of us is smaller than we imagine. A problem in China can become a worldwide conundrum. I’m not a scientist, I can’t eradicate a virus. But I can stay vigilant that Coronavirus doesn’t spread through me. I can wash my hands frequently, turn away from people when I cough or sneeze and refrain from giving hugs. Yes, those are important to help contain the virus, but what about the underlying problem? The feeling that we are a world unto ourselves.

God willing, in the coming weeks, we will see an end to what I consider a modern-day plague and that air travel will resume, and the schools and businesses that are closed will reopen their doors. I also hope that those that are stricken with the virus return to good health. But most of all, I hope that as a society, we no longer say, “not my problem.” We are all connected, for better or worse, and I hope going forward it will be only for the better.

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