Two years ago, our basement flooded three times. Typically, even big, dousing rainstorms cannot cause this problem even once, but this particular year, we had several weeks of rain intermittently in just over two months. The ground didn’t have time to drain away from the house, so, steadily and relentlessly, the water crept through the walls and the floor.
My wife and I placed items up out of the water or moved them elsewhere. We donned muck boots and sloshed the water towards floor drains that didn’t really work. I bought two pumps and a shop vac, and against the water, we went to war.
Yesterday, I read the headline and article in the Wall Street Journal “Coronavirus-Afflicted Global Economy Is Almost Certainly in Recession.” The article details grim predictions from the IMF and World Bank, to include contractions of economies not seen in the lifetimes of almost any of us. According to the article, the world economies will contract at 3%, Goliath to the 0.1% in 2009. The economy of the United States will contract 5.9% this year compared to 2.5% eleven years ago.
I’m no economist, so I will not comment about the methods or the validity of these predictions, and undoubtedly, someone with proper credentials can either concur with or dispute these findings. I do know, however, these percentages and forecasts belie the true human pain occurring now and in the future. Many people, out of work and isolated, simply do not know what to do.
During one month, entire industries have flipped upside down and inside out. The professional world I inhabit, education and technology, has seen students, teachers, parents, and principals learning an entirely new way to experience school. Last week, I conducted several interviews with the owners and tutors of several tutoring companies for a client of mine, Trilogy Mentors, a provider of an online tutoring classroom and organizational tools. Previously, these companies had dabbled in online learning in order to reach more students and grow their revenues. Now, Trilogy’s online classroom is imperative for survival.
In each one of these testimonials, spoken in the four time zones of the continental United States, I heard the same spirit I had written about several weeks ago. Here, the people on the front lines of online education, fighting to help every student they could, know, in the absence of school, their job and their mission mandate to keep these kids learning and making progress. Each tutor focused, committed, and caring. To them, it mattered not what COVID-19 or school administrations or governors did. To them, they had to find a way to teach.
And in this spirit, this commitment to do right, rests how we will survive the pain barreling towards us. William Faulkner, the southern American novelist, spoke of this spirit in his famous speech when accepting the Nobel Prize in 1950. Amidst the aftermath of WWII, the nuclear detonations in Japan, and the nascent Cold War against the Soviets, he explained, “There is only one question: When will I be blown up?” It’s not a question unasked today. Due to the pervasive fear of COVID-19, Faulkner might now state the only question is: When is it going to get me?
Faulkner offers a reply to the existential question, an answer that properly explains us in 2020 and where we will be next year and the year after, an answer I heard reflected in the voices of the tutors I met last week. He said,
I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.
Yes, many people will lose their lives and their livelihoods, but others still will pick up and carry the burden, re-building the restaurants and shops, teaching the kids who must learn.
The water, eventually, receded. It caused a tremendous mess, but it neither killed us, nor ruined the house. We started placing things back, more orderly this time. More intentional about where these items should go.
I feel the same now. Certainly, water in the basement does not compare to the lethal struggle faced against this disease, but similarly, it clarified my thinking. Fighting the flood gave me focus. In its aftermath, I ordered my house, and I don’t just mean in the basement.
Throughout the world at this very moment our fellow human beings wage another war, and like those disciplined and dedicated tutors I mentioned, through steady and relentless effort we all make progress. Today and tomorrow and all the days to come, I hope for you to receive the clarity you need, to order the important items in your house, and to continue to fight the good fight.
Thank you for reading. Please share this post or make a comment if you are so inclined, and most importantly, stay healthy. People need you.