In the United States, over 550,000 people don’t have a home to go to at the end of the day. Currently, over 11 million children in our country face food insecurity in their homes. Suicide is ranked globally as the second leading cause of death for those 15-24 years old. There is not a day I don’t wonder if someone I know will be suicide’s next victim; there have been moments when I’ve wondered if it would be me (National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255).
Right now, our world is navigating through a pandemic – one that has rocked us to our very core. Some of us have loved ones who have died from the disease while others watch their family members suit up in their scrubs and medical masks to fight for lives each day. Even the most educated among us seem to have run out of answers and headlines continue to bring bad news. Numbers continue to rise as people debate over testing strategies and cures.
As our lives come to a heartbreaking pause, our collective focus seems to have changed. We have seen tons of social media posts encouraging each other to support local business. Suddenly, we seem to appreciate artists more. People are sharing resources that provide help to those who may be stuck at home with abusers and we are all concerned with the well-being of children in our neighborhoods. Food banks are working tirelessly to fill the needs of underprivileged households and school districts are giving meals to families that would otherwise send grumbling stomachs to bed each night. We all seem to have spare change for the homeless man we see on the corner as we call our loved ones to remind them we are in this together.
While all of these outcomes are good, these issues didn’t develop with the first reported case of COVID-19. It should not take a pandemic for us to notice the humanity around us. It should not take a worldwide health crisis for us to realize that there is always someone who could use a little kindness. We cannot go back to turning a blind eye to the people in our community who are in need. We cannot let a pandemic be the reason we recognize the inequalities within our communities.
I cannot express how impatient I am for the day I get to study with my school friends again. I am saving up my pennies for my next visit to my favorite local bookstore and practicing my improv skills for when I will get to perform at Bexar Stage again. I am making a list of all the people I will hug once we have relaxed our social distancing practices. While I continue to look to the future however, I can’t help but think of how, when life goes back to “normal” and we are busy once again, it will be easy to turn a blind eye to the needs that seem so pressing now. This experience will quickly turn into political agendas and arguments that will result in even more division.
I am fortunate and young enough to say that this pandemic is the largest crisis I have seen unfold before my eyes. However, I am aware of the underlying problems our society faces every day. Just like we must do our part in reducing the impact of this pandemic, we must also hold the awareness and lessons it’s brought about close to our hearts as we move forward.