Hope, Genomes and Pandemic
Every hardship, every crisis we encounter changes us. It changes the way we think; it changes our outlooks on life. How we respond and the choices we make can determine if that change will enhance our lives or handicap them.
We are living in such a moment in history. The COVID-19 pandemic is something that the world has not seen in our lifetimes, and effects us emotionally regardless of our beliefs. Here in the United States, we have lost our freedom in a way that has never occurred before.
The stress of the unknown, the stress of the loss of our freedom impacts us no matter how we try to avoid it.
Studies have shown that our genomes change when they encounter unexpected
hardships. Our current knowledge suggests that when an unanticipated shock occurs, a genome will reorder itself so that it can survive a threat, whether it is real or imagined. Right now, our genomes are being threatened and stressed. They are in the process of being changed.
The reordering that occurs is not necessarily positive. Many of the changes that can occur could be detrimental to us physical, mental and spiritually. The choices we make and how we participate in the situation will have a big impact on what form those changes take.
It looks as if we are powerless to make a difference but that is not the whole truth.
In 2018, I read a book in which the main character became one of my personal “sheros.” Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is set in the world we know after a ravaging pandemic. Her novel speaks to choices we make in life and the impact they have.
When I first read the book, I wrote an article about this wonderful character named Kirsten and what she learned on her journey, never imagining for a moment that I would experience a pandemic myself. I do not believe that we will end up in a world like the one from the novel. Even so, there is something to be learned from
the way Kirsten and her troupe of traveling actors and musicians made their way through the crisis that shaped their lives.
Kirsten was just a child when a deadly flu killed 99% of the world’s population in a matter of days. She survived by hiding in her home with her brother until the
contagion had passed. We meet her twenty years after the pandemic, as she travels with a troupe of nomadic actors and musicians who call themselves The Traveling Symphony. They risk everything to perform Shakespeare and play symphonies for scattered communities of survivors. Electricity, gasoline, and air travel are all things of the past, so the group walks through uncivilized, sparsely populated land and encounter dangerous people along the road.
On the lead wagon of their caravan, Kirsten paints a line from Star Trek: Voyager—“Survival is Insufficient.” It becomes the motto of the troupe. They spend their lives taking music and art to the people who survived the deadly flu because they wanted to add beauty to their civilization; to help people do more than just survive.
I believe that we will come through this crisis and our world will be restored but in that process it will be changed. We, as individuals, will be changed. I already see changes and hear stories of people who have changed and helped others do the same.
How can we be a part of making genomes change for the better? The number one way is to give to others.
The first example I offer is a personal story. I am continuing to work in my office. Unfortunately, I came to this party late. What I mean by that is that I did not stock up on some important items before they became depleted. To be able to continue to work in my office, I need to be able to clean public surfaces with antibacterial wipes. I had one container of 32. I was worried about how to continue to keep my office safe for myself and the people who come here.
One day, someone brought me a very large container of wipes with the offer of more if I needed them. In the same bag, there were two packages of chicken breasts. She knew that when I went shopping for them they were sold out. I was moved by her love and care for me. My genomes sang from her act of kindness.
Today, I heard about women in Italy who are opening their windows to sing to their neighbors to help cheer them and help them heal from their illness and grief. A family gathered outside the window of a nursing home resident to sing Happy Birthday. People are gathering through internet video platforms to talk, make plans and to support one another. A.A. meetings and other support groups are meeting through video platforms to continue to support one another in healthy living.
I work with a veteran teacher. She is concerned about her students learning and fears that they will lose ground during the time school is closed. Instead of using an instructional video made by another teacher, she took the time to make one for her students because they need to keep the connection with “their” teacher. She knew that it would create safety and comfort for them. This was not a simple task for her. She had never done this before and had to learn how to film and
upload her lesson.
Before the call went out for as many people as possible to work at home, a worker went to his supervisor and said he was afraid to continue working in the office. His elderly mother and father lived with him and he was afraid of contagion. His supervisor immediately said he would help him make arrangement to work from home because his family’s safety was the most important priority.
The members of a small private dance club have decide to give their club owners the same amount of money they usually spend when they attend the club.
What stories about acts of kindness, caring and giving have you heard? Please share them with me. How can you add to these stories? Together, we can help make the change that is occurring a positive one.