Moments of Great Challenge by Greg Hansell

In the last 24 hours, I’ve taken panicked phone calls from heroic small business owners and heard several desperate stories. I’ve also been screamed at and been chastised a few times, and frankly have found my own patience quickly wearing thin. And this is all before things likely get much more complicated.

It’s hard, but we have a choice in this. While it’s in our nature to become our worst selves in crises, it is also inherent in humanity to rise to our best in times like these. We’re all worried about our health, our jobs, and our future, but that’s the point – it’s all of us. 

Do something. Get some take-out from your local non-chain restaurants, but also spend money with your local small business. Buy a gift card, order something online, call in an order. Volunteer to help those in the most at-risk demographics get groceries or other staples. Offer your time or expertise to friends, family, and other struggling folks. Just something, anything. It will make a difference.

Support the nonprofits you believe in, not just because they speak to you but because their work in soothing our souls and helping where needed will soon matter more than we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

Thank your educators, your healthcare workers, your Amazon box packers, your UPS delivery person. Vote and call your representatives on their behalf. Practice empathy.

Try not to bark at people or respond badly to those who do so to you. This is hard, because fear is rising in us all, but that’s why now is the time to keep calm, catch yourself when you lose your cool, and be patient with those who are struggling to do so. We’re all suffering.

Look beyond yourself, your family, your community, your nation. This is a global threat that is beyond all borders, all walls, all silly lines in the sand. Stop blaming other countries and other cultures. Start thinking that you are just lucky not be where many are – and indeed, you very well may be there soon.

Moments of great challenge can become eras of profound transformation – the backward pull of the slingshot that sends us flying forward. The last few years humanity has moved backward: away from global thinking and the celebration of difference, and toward vicious hatreds, foolhardy nationalisms, cowardly groupthink. Such nonsense can not defeat this virus, let alone the looming climate crisis.

We must find our way back to progress: not simply where we were in our half measures (those helped create the problems we are facing), but bold visionary leaps are now inarguably necessary. It may take a couple years to once again collectively summon the nerve to do so, which means the groundwork starts now for those who see clearly and far ahead.

In the meantime: compassion, courage, and commitment should be our charge. Compassion for each other, for businesses, for institutions. The courage to be bold but also to let go and be willing to explore new ways. And the commitment to meet this moment: we will not win the day with just take out and Netflix. We must commit to each other.

I cannot do this alone. I’m no solitary warrior – without you I cannot summon the will necessary to exceed these challenges. None of us can. We need to do this together.

We need to finally see we’ve only ever done anything of true worth *together.*

Greg Hansell is the Executive Director of the Omega Center.