It might be a callous idea to suggest that we be more grateful during a worldwide pandemic, where people have lost loved ones or are suffering from illnesses themselves. When schools have gone online and daycares, like our borders, have closed. Where hanging out with friends have become a finable offense and the news – both true and fake – have been touched by the macabre. Yet, amidst all of this doom and gloom, I prescribe a dose of gratitude for all, however out of place it may feel.
To be clear, it’s not as if I’ve somehow been spared from all the hysteria. Teaching online has been so far outside of my comfort zone that it has flared up my imposter syndrome, challenging my already shaky belief that I am actually reaching the students. Not having daycare for our baby means we are parenting hardcore all day every day, so the article that I should have finished by now, has a haunting word count of 0. I have family members in the high risk category living far away, and worrying about them is often emotionally paralyzing. Even doing groceries feels like I’m venturing out into the dodgy end of town at night.
Yet, in light of this, we seem to somehow be adapting. What was once inconceivable, is quickly becoming the new normal and in our collective adaptability, I see possibilities for growth, which can – in theory – be transplanted in pursuit of other causes. There are reasons for optimism and gratitude if you care to look for it: That when push comes to shove, people can and will change their habits and beliefs. That people are willing to put aside personal interests for the sake of the greater good. That there are selfless people who step up in service of others in times of extreme hardship through acts of unfathomable kindness. The Roman philosopher, Cicero, once wrote that gratitude is “not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others” and that is because – I suspect – being appreciative of what we have, makes what we have enough.
For me, it means being grateful that I still have a job and empathetic bosses that understand our struggles. At least students are still getting together (online) and learning. My wife and I spend so much time with our son that we are there for every second of his development. And at the end of yet another long and exhausting day, when we finally put the little one to bed, we celebrate with a nice cold beer in our garden, like two comrades coming out of a foxhole during a temporary ceasefire.
So rather than dwelling on the countless Zoom meetings we’ve endured, the stress of not being productive, and the fear of getting sick or losing loved ones, we take a moment instead to appreciate the fact that we survived yet another day. The beer really helps.
Mark Kawakami, assistant professor at the Faculty of Law