COVID-19 feels like it’s straight out of history, yet it’s more present by each day we are living. Its economic predictions for future impact spans years. Its attachment to our human bodies reaches past the outside and touches our soul. Isolation is a term that asks a lot from our inner person. It asks us to survive without anyone present beside us. Isolation feels crippling. Isolation feels empowering. It feels both crippling and empowering simultaneously, somehow. Isolation and quarantine take a strength we are not used to but are fully capable of. Whether it is a stay-at-home mother, a healthcare worker on the front-lines or a college student, it seems that COVID-19 calls for deep resilience from every American impacted by the virus. We are expected to rise to this occasion as the virus has caused an uproar.
A few weeks ago, I returned to my parents’ house to visit with them. Social distancing had just begun as the societal upheaval was at a head. We stepped outside to walk the dog in the sunshine. I found myself listening in on my parent’s conversation with the man next door. He appeared to be in his 60s—my parents are in their 50s—and they were discussing the food shortage they were seeing in grocery stores. After the conversation, I found myself grocery shopping for not only my family but also grabbing a few things from the neighbor’s grocery list. It was in that moment that I noticed the significance of social distancing, the elderly taking a step back from the community and the positive impact that millennials can have on their families.
I picked up a few things for the neighbors, dropped them at the doorstep and finished unloading my family’s groceries. All was normal until I realized I was the messenger to the community. I had the responsibility of explaining which stores were empty and where the nearest fresh produce could be found. This was just the beginning: the beginning of a hectic fear and uncertainty boasting scarcity, illness and death. I paused and took a breath. Was this the beginning of something big or would it pass shortly?
Fast forward to March 16 in Michigan. The state began to shut down, with streets empty, bars closed and restaurants only open for take-out. On March 23 Governor Whitmer issued the “stay at home” order. Trader Joes has now lines outside, only taking a certain amount of people in at one time. The staff are found individually sanitizing each cart before handing it to the customer in line. The customers inside rush through the store to allow the next person waiting outside in the cold to begin their shopping. This is reality. The reality of empty streets, families protecting themselves and grocery staff sacrificing their health has hit our nation. These small moments have been a larger representation of my current reality.
Last week I received a call with my parent’s broken voices asking me to either come home and quarantine with them alone or continue in my college community. No longer am I able to see friends and family in the same week. COVID-19 puts my mother at risk as she has an autoimmune disease. It is one or the other to protect my mother. Everyone agrees this is what is best for the health of the family, but the notion has set in that this is reality. This is our reality as millennials—grocery shopping for our parents, staying away from friends, doing everything in our power to save generations—well, that is, the ones who are listening.
These are some of the sacrifices that most people have gone through in the past two weeks. It is nothing out of the ordinary. It is our reality now. If you cannot relate, I urge you to begin to ask yourself what sacrifices you can make to be the millennial that contributes to this pandemic positively instead of the one who promotes the spread of this virus. It’s not about us anymore. This is the only time in history that I recall both church and state widely agreeing on the same thing. Pastors have spoken the theme of “honor your father and mother” every week since this pandemic began. Politicians are strongly declaring, “think of your grandma!” If the church and state, two of the largest representative bodies in America, are agreeing on the same thing, then we as millennials must agree. We can bring positivity to our families by simply sacrificing our will for their safety.
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