If we didn’t realize it before, the COVID-19 pandemic enlightened us to our global interdependence. Shortages of supplies, travel restrictions, and the rapid and continuous spread of the virus highlighted how interconnected and dependent we are on one another.
Last spring American’s experienced shortages of supplies for the first time in generations. Complete products, as well as components of finished products, were unavailable for months. Manufacturing plants were intermittently shut-down or working with limited staff due to employees unable to work due to infection of the Corona virus.
We Americans are traditionally independent. We thrive on our freedom of choice, and do as we please without realizing how many people participate in making that freedom happen. When those choices are restricted, we balk. Waiting for immediate gratification is not something we are accustomed to, much less easily accept. Most of us have access to vast selections of goods within easy reach. We order items online that appear on our doorstep within a few days. We walk into any number of stores and choose from rows of fully-stocked shelves. And we go where we want, when we want.
I know that I was frustrated when my sewing machine ceased working after making hundreds of masks and I had to wait several months for it to be repaired. Typically, this would take a couple of weeks. However, small parts were needed from China to be shipped to Switzerland, and once assembled into a board, that part had to be flown from Switzerland to the U.S. during a time when flights were infrequent.
This American spirit of individualism isn’t new. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, also known as Saint Theodora, noted this in her letters and diaries during the mid to late 1800s. Saint Theodora immigrated from France to the Indiana wilderness in 1840 to found a community of Catholic religious women to teach throughout the Midwest. She wrote of the American sense of self and pride. She also saw how productive, successful, and better off we are when we work for the good of the whole.
When Americans do decide to work together, we overcome incredible obstacles. Recently, Texans experienced an unprecedented deep freeze. Their normally moderate winter temperatures left their unprotected homes and businesses ill prepared for nature’s assault. Sporadic or no power, and therefore, no heat for the snowy 7 to 10 days below freezing, caused water pipes to break and roofs to leak resulting in massive destruction. The lack of snow plows and salt left roads too slick to drive on. Trucks were unable to deliver needed food and supplies to restock empty shelves.
Friends in Texas shared numerous stories of neighbors who generously cared for one another. They offered food, resources, and lodging to those in need. They carried water from their pools to nearby homes for flushing toilets. They used their ingenuity and blessings to assist one another in whatever way was necessary.
Most world religions note the interrelationship of all living beings. Buddhists believe we each are independent but affect the existence of everything around us. A phrase in a traditional Lakota Sioux prayer translates to, “all my relatives,” recognizing the connection of all living things. Christian Scriptures state, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). (See also 1 Corinthians 12:13, 1 Corinthians 6:17, Romans 12:4-5.)
Chief medical advisor to President Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said that our independent spirit of not wanting to comply with public health measures has hurt us during this pandemic. We likely would have resolved the risks of COVID-19 sooner had we simply been more compliant with wearing masks, remaining at a safe distance, and diligently washing our hands. Sometimes we are too independent for our own good. Some thought more of themselves than of the population at large.
In reality, we are like trees in a forest. When one falls, others are harmed in its wake. In the same way, we can all reach for the sun together.
(Photo: Colorado Aspens)