Everyone reading this is likely under some form of lockdown in their homes as a result of the virus. Lives have been turned upside down, and life everywhere is dramatically different than it was four weeks ago.
COVID-19, the coronavirus, became a global pandemic in March, wreaking havoc on populations and economies. Scientists estimate that 40% to 70% of our population will be affected. Many will die. The stock market had its biggest single-day sell off since Black Monday in 1987. Almost everyone has lost money in the form of lost wages, investment losses and evaporated revenue streams. People are stressed, anxious and fearful. And the chaos and uncertainty continue to grow. Many of you are asking “How will I get through this?” I will tell you.
You will find a sense of purpose. Yes, you. You will remember back to everything anyone has ever told you you are good at, and you will think hard about how you can utilize those unique talents during this worldwide crisis. You will consider on a daily basis how you can be useful and of benefit during this pandemic. Lives are being senselessly lost. Your job is to stay balanced, stay engaged and be useful.
How do I know this is the path out? We have lots of examples.
I’m fascinated by World War II and have read lots of books about that era. In “Franklin and Winston: A Portrait of An Epic Friendship” I was particularly struck by a quote from a regular working-class citizen in London talking about his memories of the war. He remembers the years of World War II as the best years of his life. He said something to the effect of “We were unified, and we were committed. We had a clear enemy and a clear purpose. The entire country came together with a single goal. Victory.” His sense of purpose gave the wartime hardship meaning. He remembers it proudly. They won.
World War II was a long time ago, but there are also recent examples.
I volunteer one hour per week at the Skaramagas refugee camp outside of Athens, Greece. In Skaramagas, there are thousands of refugees waiting for their asylum applications to be reviewed. The timeline isn’t days or weeks. They wait for months and in many cases for years. They can’t legally work, and they are given a very small stipend to live off. It’s a hard situation. Many struggle, and many become depressed. And a few thrive. One who seems to be thriving is a Syrian man in his late 30s. He and his brother had a restaurant in Aleppo. When he arrived at Skaramagas, he quickly realized there was no place serving hot food. So he and his brother started a makeshift cantina at the camp. You can see his mind is filled with food orders, recipes and customers. He’s not staring at four walls hoping for the situation to change. He’s busy feeding people. His energy is completely different than most of the people in the camp. He has purpose.
You tell me you don’t know what your purpose in all this could be? I will tell you how I am approaching it…
I’m at the center of a community. I think, on a daily basis, of what I imagine the community needs in this moment and how I can support it. I post recipes I think you will like and that will be nourishing for your body. I create small videos to help you work out and meditate at home. I share practical advice, uplifting stories and relevant news. I check in on you. I create ways so you can check in with each other. Some days I nail it, and some days I miss. But every day I try. And that helps me too. I’m not thinking about my evaporated Airbnb revenue stream. Or whether or not I can host my Ikaria Surf + Yoga holiday in Greece in June. My mind is filled with video editing, writing, class preparation, posting, all the things I must get done for the day so I’ll feel like I did my best to help everyone move one step forward.
So what can you do? Everyone’s situation is different. Maybe you have an elderly neighbor who needs some support. Maybe you can create a virtual playdate schedule for your kids and the rest of the kids in the neighborhood. Maybe you can train your coworkers on how to better use Zoom. Or if you are in the position, maybe you can find a way to help the medical workers who are bearing the brunt of this crisis. If you need some ideas, here’s what some other people are doing:
The Goo Goo Dolls’ lead singer held a porch concert to help local small businesses impacted by coronavirus
Formula 1 race car teams work with UK authorities to repurpose their expertise to build ventilators, which are required and in short supply for those with serious cases of COVID-19.
Fashion designer Christian Siriano and Dov Charney repurpose their workshops to make face masks and medical gowns
Purpose doesn’t need to be big numbers or dramatic gestures. Even if the numbers or gestures seem small, for the individuals you are impacting, it can be huge. But it does take some soul searching and some honest assessment to think of what is your role in all this. But if everyone finds their purpose, victory is assured. And you’ll feel better too. Trust me.
And if you are totally stuck about what you can possibly offer, you can message me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a donation-based Enneagram typing interview. These interviews help to uncover your strengths and what you are uniquely gifted to do. I use it myself–I’m an Enthusiast Type 7 which means my attention goes to the positive, what could be fun, what is new and innovative. Since it is easy for me to see the positive, I can uplift situations. It comes naturally to me, it is where my attention already goes. Where does your attention go? I bet we can find out…