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Thankfulness During a Pandemic

dark ocean with light coming out through the clouds

Just days before my immediate family went into quarantine, I was daydreaming about a few changes that I felt would be welcome in my life. 

I thought, I’d like to travel less this year. And go to the grocery store less often. I’m always urging people to do that because it’s a super-easy way to reduce our emissions. I also thought about spending more time with my 15-year-old cat; we were together every day of his first decade, before I started going into the office every day. 

I never would have wanted these things to come to pass because of a pandemic that’s brought suffering to millions of people worldwide. The virus itself and the many knock-on effects to our lives and livelihoods are creating havoc for nurses and doctors, farmers, grocery store and restaurant workers, delivery drivers, and many others.

But in spite of the current situation, or perhaps because of it, I am finding myself seeking out things to be thankful for. And in talking about it with my friends and colleagues, it seems I’m not the only one.

As someone whose nature is to seek out silver linings, I thought I’d highlight some of those objects of gratitude, with an eye towards appreciating what we have now, and thinking about what we’ll most enjoy when something closer to everyday life resumes.

One big thing has been the recognition of how much we need to hang out with people. Shopping isn’t all that important to our mental and spiritual well-being, but camaraderie, laughs, and hugs certainly are.

And my colleague Holly Harris points out that the restrictions we’re under will, hopefully, give us more appreciation for all the liberties we usually have, as well as greater awareness of the need to stay healthy, more enjoyment of being outside, and perhaps a little more empathy for one another, with so many of us struggling in the same boat.

As Holly commented, “You see the empathy in the way everyday heroes have sprung up like spring buds everywhere, and the way people are showing their appreciation. I truly hope that humanity will evolve towards a place where our positive common values are more emphasized. Social change is usually slow in comparison to technological change; maybe slowing down our activities will give it a chance to catch up.”
People with the good fortune to be able to work from home are saving time, energy, and money on their commuting, and also in dressing and laundering. As people demonstrate that they can work effectively from home, managers may allow more of that in the future. And on a personal level, being around our family members and housemates when they’re working may give us all more appreciation for what they do, and a better sense of what kind of support we all need and should give on the home front.

It’s also interesting to see that telemedicine is working and is saving money. It’s not a replacement for in-person medicine, but it does seem to offer a solution in between a phone consultation and office visit. And going forward, development of the approach may enable health care workers to work from home one or two days a week or when their kids are sick—something they’ve not been able to do before. 

Likewise, a raft of e-learning material is being produced. Again, not a complete substitute for traditional educational approaches, but it could open up avenues for people who struggle with long work hours, erratic travel schedules, or lack of funds. It may also help colleges and universities reduce tuition so students don’t spend half their life paying off their student loans, and create opportunities for parents to engage more deeply with their children’s learning.

Holly and I also both feel that this shakeup may reinforce the value of government and its ability to help people. And perhaps our elected representatives will be forced to focus on what’s really important and hopefully be more willing to collaborate for the common good.  

That common good is also at the heart of our self-isolation and the way so many of us are applying our creativity and practicality to slow the spread of the virus. These are profound and beautiful acts of mutual protection.

There’s a passage from J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Fellowship of the Ring that’s especially germane these days:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

If we can decide to use this time to become closer and kinder with one another, and more appreciative of all we have, we will have reason to be very thankful indeed.

About the Author:  Lise Laurin, CEO and Founder of EarthShift Global

Lise Laurin CEO and Founder of EarthShift Global LLC as well as EarthShift.Lise Laurin, a pioneer in Sustainable Return on Investment (S-ROI) and Life Cycle Assessment, founded EarthShift in 2000, adopting these methodologies to support North American industries’ early efforts at sustainability. She continues to develop and leverage EarthShift Global’s training, simplified LCA tools and S-ROI tools to build organizational capacity and drive large-scale change. Lise received the 2017 Rita Schenck Lifetime Individual LCA Leadership Award from the ACLCA, and is currently the driving force behind the LCA Roadmap, working with the SETAC North America Life Cycle Assessment Advisory Group. She was a member of the UNEP SETAC Life Cycle Initiative team working on Organizational LCA (O-LCA) and advocates for a balanced, holistic approach to LCA within the International Standards Organization (ISO) Technical Advisory Groups for LCA and Ecolabeling. 

Email Lise if you’re interested in a sustainability speaker for your next event.

Photo by Jason Kocheran on Unsplash