One Truth From the Tragedy

A loss can be liberating.

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I’m sure you’ve noticed that most of the world is crazed in pandemic fear. Half a million Americans are infected with The Virus. Tens of thousands have suffered miserable deaths, with many more guaranteed to follow. Talking heads spray gushers of spittle telling us how terrible our lives are in the churning chaos of this global scourge. We’ve lost so much.

I’m ashamed.

I’m ashamed to admit — that when I look closely, my life is quite nice.

I’m lucky to have food and shelter

Those of us who are the lucky ones in this pandemic have a roof above our heads and a safe place to shelter. I have a warm home that keeps me cozy. The grocery store down the road delivers nutritious food so I don’t go hungry. My washer and dryer work as expected so my sweatpants and t-shirts smell like a fresh spring day. Heroic Amazon and FedEx drivers deliver all the treasures I need.

Over half a million people in the US call the streets their home, and that number grows worse every day. For the homeless, shelter is fleeting and access to food and medical care can be a dangerous gamble. Many are medically challenged and at high risk of exposure — but they need to eat. And feed their children.

They’re teaching me compassion and honor.

I have the privilege of a job

My company still pays me because I can work remotely with ease. As an IT manager, the electrons I move around help people design and distribute products and information about the pandemic. They produce educational materials for home-bound students and provide critical communications to care givers.

Millions of unemployed workers would sell their souls to be able to contribute, but most have no hope of a paycheck anytime soon. They march with all the pride they can muster to the unemployment line where they huddle too close to each other and trade their dignity for handouts.

They’re showing me how to be fearless, humble, and respectful.

I’m healthy and active

Those of us with good genetics and health care coverage are lucky. With sensible behavior, my odds of getting sick are quite small. But even if I do, I can grab my mask and gloves, hop in my car, and get the medical treatment that could save my life.

Forty million Americans have no healthcare. It’s a travesty to live in the richest country in the world and be forced to grovel for second-rate care in the dangerous atmosphere of an emergency room. Elderly, mentally ill, and health-compromised individuals are at the highest risk and deserve the same compassion and care I get automatically.

I’m staying home to keep others safe.

I’m fundamentally happy

Happiness is rooted in security, of which I’m blessed with abundance. When one is safe, sated, and sane, one has only the small stuff to worry about — and we’re told not to sweat the small stuff. Meditation and quiet contemplation polish the ragged mental edges for me, while exercise keeps me optimistic and invigorated. I have time for myself, and I’m happier because of it.

The trivial inconveniences I face from this crisis are downy feathers compared to the heavy burden of anxiety that mentally ill and clinically depressed individuals carry. Even worse, this global crisis is inflicting psychological damage on those with invisible afflictions in a way we don’t yet comprehend. Common sense tells us this isn’t small stuff.

They’re teaching me patience and empathy.

I’m connected

For me, it’s easy. I have plenty of connections with family, friends, and work. It can start with a simple phone call or text to say hi. With a few clicks I can open a video chat with a good friend or an entire family. I’m lucky to have a social life while huddled in this little island I call home, and even luckier to have the chance to share my thoughts in written form with so many others.

A recent study found that 60% of Americans lack companionship and close interpersonal connections. The problem becomes even more severe with the elderly, who are at dire risk of transmitted infection. They may have no spouses, close family ties, or peers to talk to, and limited technical skills to connect even if they do.

They’re showing me how to appreciate a simple nod and a smile.

I’ve lost nothing — instead, I’ve gained an important truth

Before this crisis I cared about the American dream. Now I care about people.

I grieve for the lonely, the helpless, and the homeless. I fear for those who can’t understand. I mourn those who’ve been taken.

My life is fine right now, but far too many others are not. I vow to stay vigilant until this catastrophe has passed. And practice being better.

I’m a lucky man with many teachers.

What about you?

Are you okay? Are you happy?

It can be liberating to acknowledge that life, in the middle of a world of tragedy and turmoil, can be rewarding. It’s all about the little things that others share with you. And that you share with them.

If you’re reading this, you have an Internet-connected device, you’re probably not sick, and most likely you have a solid roof over your head. I’ll bet you have friends and family too.

You’re lucky. Yes, you are. And that’s okay.

Lover of reading, and writer of oft-curated articles about retirement, life, and adventure. Editor of Medium.com/life-after-work and www.LifeAfterWork.Zone.

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