Thinking of You with Compassion, Courage and Composure
First and foremost, our hearts go out to all those who have been and will be affected by COVID-19 — whether by illness, the isolation of preventative measures, or resulting personal and professional hardships. In this key moment in history, each of us is called on to do our part, to lead the way, to support one another, and to choose to respond to crisis with courage over fear, calm and compassion over panic.
As Viktor Frankl shared in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
The Stoics believed that perhaps the single most important practice was to differentiate between what we can change and what we can’t.
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…” — Epictetus, Discourses, 2.5.4–5
To take action right now is a response to fear. To not take action is also a response to fear. The fears that we are responding to are just different fears: fear that keeps us living and fear that keeps us from living. We do not have control over the global pandemic or the public response to the global pandemic. We do have control over the actions that we take.
The story of our shared destiny, community, and mutual support can strengthen our collective commitment to ensuring access to care and services for all, regardless of economic status, identity, or background. As you are surely aware, COVID-19 is clearly deepening inequality, and inequality worsens its spread.
Our friends at the Canadian Women’s Foundation highlight some of the gendered dynamics at play well, which I’ve summarized here:
More caregiving and housework
Women carry more unpaid housework and caregiving responsibilities than men, including child and elder care. Women will inevitably have to take on increased unpaid caregiving needs.
More economic stress
As women absorb more unpaid care responsibilities, they may have to sacrifice their incomes, exacerbating pay-gaps and gendered poverty dynamics.
More gender-based violence
Disaster situations often lead to increased gender-based violence. Existing forms of violence that women and trans and non-binary people are at high risk of can increase, including intimate partner abuse, sexual assault, and emotional abuse. In China, there’s been a spike in domestic violence with the imposition of coronavirus quarantines.
Less access to support services
Increased rates of violence have to be considered against service interruptions and closures. Other services will undoubtedly experience challenges in the coming weeks. This includes the healthy relationship and empowerment programs, job training programs, and poverty reduction services we support all over Canada.
To me, the bottom line is that when we regroup collectively as we come through this, the opportunity and absolute requirement to work together to solve our increasingly exposed social and environmental ills will be ever-present. In the coming weeks we’re going to see governments of all levels (executive, judicial and legislative), financial institutions, (I)NGOs and all manner of charitable organizations coming together to weave a redesigned social fabric. Now more than ever our work is an absolute necessity. Whether you take a moral or business perspective, the onus is on us. The responsibility is clearly ours. We look forward to working with you.
Personally, and for as little as it may be worth, I am looking to grow through the pain that is to inevitably come. A few books that have made their way to my nightstand are in this list. Perhaps they might help you too.
Before going off to read however, spend time with your loved ones, no matter where they are. I’d trade an extra day with my girls over any of my accomplishments, and I am sure you’d do the same. Let’s not waste this time. Let’s not take it for granted. Let’s not trade it for anything.