As of writing this blog post, I’ve been working from home for a full two weeks. My place of employment has been closed to the public for a month. As a banquet server, my husband has had over a month of canceled events, and no paychecks. My oldest child hasn’t been to school in over a month. It is unlikely that any of this will change in the near future. This is our new normal, and at this point, I’m kind of sick of hearing about the “silver lining”.
Truthfully, we’re the lucky ones. I’m still employed and receiving my full pay. Even though we’re losing hundreds of dollars every week with my husband being out of work, we can scrape by with one salary. But that is just not the case for many families. Thousands of Americans are forced to live paycheck to paycheck under normal circumstances. If that money is suddenly gone due to a worldwide pandemic, what are they to do? Apply for unemployment benefits on a dilapidated system designed to make it almost impossible to complete the application? Pin all their hopes on a government that is hopelessly divisive and out of touch with its own people?
No, I can’t put aside my frustrations and focus on the silver lining. Families are losing their businesses, their livelihoods. Some children, whose only safe space was at school, are forced to survive in toxic living conditions indefinitely. Families are burdened with distance learning, working, cooking, cleaning, with no sign of an end in sight. I’m absolutely terrified of what is going to happen to my own mental health, as well as that of many others. Surrounding me, I see parents who don’t know if they’re going to have money for food next week, let alone the mortgage payment. And these are the healthy ones. What if they actually get sick?
That silver lining is full of privilege. I don’t mean that to be insulting — it’s just a fact. If you don’t have to worry about paying your bills and putting food on the table right now, you are privileged. If your biggest worry is about running out of interesting shows to watch on Netflix while you’re quarantined at home, you are privileged. I know, I know. Look for the positive, you say. But where is the positive side for a single mom trying to make it work with no paycheck and no help? How can I simply look for the positive when we have no idea when this is going to end, and how bad things will get?
So what can we do? Check-in on our friends. Help them, if we are able. That doesn’t necessarily mean monetarily. Drop off some groceries, support their small business by leaving a review, or simply have a candid conversation and let them vent. Help them navigate the murky waters of the unemployment system. Ask your kids’ school if there are families you could assist in some way. Act if something doesn’t seem right, instead of putting your head down. Even small acts can have big effects. Imagine if everyone you knew did one small act of service. Imagine the outcome.
Now, more than ever, we need to be a community and lift each other up. It’s the only way we’re going to be able to move past this. Then, and only then, will I allow myself to see the silver lining.