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What have I learned from the pandemic?

By Luo Wei | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-09-11 17:23

China Daily

'Heal the world, make it a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race. There are people dying, if you care enough for the living, make a better place for you and for me.'

Is there a more appropriate time to sing this song from Michael Jackson? How did it all start? Are we there yet?

At the beginning of 2020, I was travelling with my family in Israel, hoping to receive miraculous blessings from this amazing land full of enchanting histories and stories.

A few days later, we noticed things were getting a bit strange as some people started covering their faces with their sleeves or scarves when they saw us passing by on the streets. Puzzling and inexplicable, somehow that was my first encounter with the pandemic not at home but on a foreign land. I didn't have any clue back then regarding what would happen to me when I went back to China. Needless to say, little did I realize that was only the beginning of the reset of the whole world on an immeasurable scale affecting everyone living on the planet earth. Well, who would have thought?

My travel experience may have brought me mixed feelings; nevertheless, it provided me a chance to re-think the issues of distrust, isolation and selfishness. The past few months have witnessed drastic and unexpected changes at home and abroad.

We started to ask questions such as who can we really trust? Can we trust the news bombarding us through all the media platforms from which we hear stories of different sides and perspectives? Can we really find the truth? For a long time, we have indulged ourselves in the speed and convenience of online technology, yet we have never felt so isolated as a result of the dwindling of face-to-face communication we all need desperately as human beings. Worse still, we saw groups and communities concentrate only on their own benefits and acquisitions without the consideration of the well-being of the entire nation. They have been constantly refusing to wear masks, declaring nothing meaningful but a selfish lifestyle. We couldn't help but wonder is selfishness a deadly sin in our human nature that could be more detrimental than what we have suffered from COVID-19?

With the ever-increasing crisis on a global scale, being compelled to make adjustments and changes to our life on so many levels since the breakout of COVID-19, maybe it's time to ask ourselves what have we learned from the unprecedented circumstances in human history? Are there any valuable lessons we can take into our future life? After all, I consider it more sensible to think how we can live above the current circumstances instead of asking when we can go back to normal life.

The very first lesson I learned in the past eight months is that we need to have more trust with people around us in time of crisis. At the beginning of the pandemic, we were mostly occupied with fears, worries and endless uncertainties in our minds every single day.

The business school I work for had to postpone the date of the new semester a few times due to the unpredictable situations back in February. In the midst of chaos and confusion, we had no better options but choose to trust that we were being taken good care of by the management team and things will work out soon. And the truth was: the management team took all the burdens and worked twice hard as before.

I almost had tears in my eyes when I received messages from my French team leader saying that he would definitely stay in contact with us and make every effort he could to ensure the delivery of online classes. In time of crisis, we could be more united or divided. And that's how I've learned my first lesson from my workplace, simple yet significant: have more trust in people around us. We will be more united than ever.

Another ongoing lesson for me from the pandemic is to be more connected. What we have experienced since the outbreak of the coronavirus is like a wake-up call, buzzing and questioning of who and what we will be. Around last week, over a voice message with an American friend, I told him I was starting to read news on international politics which was the last area I would be interested in before the pandemic crisis. He couldn't stop laughing and wondering why would I put myself into a rabbit hole which will bring me nothing but emotional turmoil? Jokes aside, my true motivation for my new interest lies in learning more about the interconnected globe, which happens to give me a chance to renew my mind and find out more about the world I honestly don't know much about. Will the pandemic change the future connections between countries? I'm intrigued to learn and find out more.

Third, be more responsive and responsible instead of selfishly seeking my own contentment. We tend to think we know ourselves really well until we get a chance to be awakened in a way not even in our wildest imagination. After years of being exposed to cultures roaring on the importance of self-identity and individualism, I was more lost than ever. I became indifferent to people around me and things happening at home and abroad, satisfying only with the pursuit of my superficial happiness and achievements. Ironically, the self-centered ideas I was holding onto turned out to push me further away from what I hoped I could receive. Admittedly, the pandemic has pushed me to think a bit deeper and restore the significance of my identity embedded in my Chinese background, which abundantly provides me a fountain of wisdom, confidence, strength and courage. John F. Kennedy once said in his inaugural speech: "ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country." It seems like his idea still applies to all cultures today doesn't it?

Are there more lessons I've learned so far? Absolutely. Truth be told, it's not really about the number of lessons I've learned but the number of changes I'm going to make. So, are we there yet? Are we getting closer to the end of the pandemic? Will a definite answer bring real peace to the world and to our own hearts? I believe the ultimate answer is within ourselves. We can choose to trust more and be more connected with family, friends, our community and the globe. We can also learn more about ourselves and witness our own transformation from inside out. The crisis will be gone eventually. Before that, it doesn't sound a bad idea to ask ourselves once in a while "what have I learned so far", does it?

The author is an English teacher from SILC Business School Shanghai University.

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