Just a month ago, I attended a classical music concert at the Strathmore where Joshua Bell one of the world’s top violists performed. Today, with almost 20,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in this country, that concert hall is closed along with all public venues not just in our area, but across the world.
Life as we’ve all known it has completely changed in the past few weeks. And with all this growing uncertainty, it’s important to pinpoint where we can find comfort during these difficult times. For those, like my son or my law students, who perhaps have never witnessed major adversity on a level like this, I find this is a great teaching moment to impart some lessons from our past:
First, as I take my daily walks I often think about my grandparents. My father’s parents managed to survive the Spanish flu, two world wars, and Franco’s rule in Spain, which lasted until he died in 1975. My maternal grandmother, who was born in Ecuador in 1915, also survived these things along with immense poverty, until my mother was able to bring her to the U.S. where she lived to be 97 years old.
Second, prior to the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, world travel was not unlimited. As a national gymnast in the 80’s, I had to get special permission to spend two summers in Bulgaria, which was behind the Iron Curtain. Only from 1990 until September 11, 2001 did we truly experience a sense of freedom in travel like never before.
Third, after 9/11 not only was our false sense of security shattered internationally, but there were major layoffs and salary reductions nationwide. Fortunately, I was not among the 33% of the staff cuts my firm made that year, and somehow we weathered the first recession I would experience in my legal career. Eight years later, the housing market collapsed, which led to the Great Recession. In that debacle, I lost my home and the entire $80,000 down payment. It took years to rebuild everything on my own as a single mom.
Today, I draw strength from my family’s story, as well as my own. Hardship is a part of life, and having a job, food, and shelter is no small feat. Everything else is gravy, and that is only worth enjoying when you have someone to share it with– a loving partner, friends, and family.
Perhaps this crisis is meant to be a reminder for all living generations that we should never take the little things for granted, especially the personal connections we have with one another. We are all in this together, and truly accepting that reality is the only way through this.
Stay safe, and chin up. You are not in this alone.
By Regina A. DeMeo