As I was entering a local grocery store, a sign caught my eye: “These are our temporary hours ——until the world goes back to normal.” While part of me felt relieved at the prospect of the world going back to normal, part of me felt disappointed. I don’t want the world to go back to normal.
What was normal before the pandemic was not natural or healthy. Most people have gotten used to living a life of fear, pain, stress, separation, and dysfunction. If that’s normal, count me out. We deserve better.
When an individual gets sick, it usually indicates a call for a course correction. The person has stepped away from the stream of well-being, and the illness is a wake-up call to upgrade the person’s attitude, habits, or lifestyle. So it is with the planet. The coronavirus and economic turndown are calls for us to examine the way we have been living as individuals, and the planet. It’s time to upgrade to normal 2.0.
We are now experiencing a planetary sabbath. The Earth has been given a chance to breathe. Satellite photos show that pollution over China has practically disappeared. Indians are seeing the Himalayas at a distance of 100 miles for the first time in 30 years. A friend in Paris told me she is smelling the spring flowers like she never has before. I saw a drone video of Hawaii beaches with no people on them. The azure water is pristine clear, reefs visible from altitude. They look like the unspoiled beaches of a remote tropical island that disappeared from the state many years ago. A friend who was snorkeling not far offshore saw a spotted ray, wildlife reclaiming their right to swim in shallow water. We are being reminded what the Earth was like before we polluted it, and might return to if we get the message now being delivered.
Many people are reaching out to help each other in ways we never would have, had the pandemic not occurred. A fellow in Australia saw a line of hungry people waiting for public assistance; he went to his bank, withdrew $10,000, and gave each person in line a $100 bill. 99-year-old British veteran Captain Tom Moore raised $42 million in donations to offset coronavirus when he strolled around his garden with his walker 100 times. Italians are singing to each other from across balconies. A fellow in the UK struck up a conversation with his next door neighbor for the first time and found she has a cancer diagnosis. He is getting her groceries and plans to quit his job and just deliver love where he can. Another woman is walking her elderly neighbor’s dogs.
Soon we will be returning to our jobs, schools, and familiar activities. If we just go back to the same ole’ same ole’, this pandemic experience will have been for naught. I pray that the life we are about to lead far exceeds the one we have left behind. I pray that the world does not return to normal. I pray that the world returns to better.