What I’m learning during the pandemic

Mary and I were in Israel when the Coronavirus became a worldwide pandemic. Our Lufthansa flight was cancelled but United Airlines came to our rescue and got us home. We immediately entered 14 days of quarantine which has now stretched to six weeks and counting. Who would have thought a month ago that our world would be so stymied by an invisible microbe. 

Let’s make the most of these days of isolation and uncertainty. Let’s reflect on what we can learn during these days. Here are some things I’ve been thinking about. They aren’t new thoughts, but each has become more clear.   

Everyone needs a hobby

When you’re sequestered at home 24/7 for many weeks, you end up with extra time on your hands. It helps to have life-enhancing diversions, better known as hobbies. Two of my hobbies are pedagogical art and viniculture. In the past few weeks I’ve been creating a picture for a family member, and I’ve been nurturing the 66 vines in my vineyard. I enjoy these hobbies so much  I often enter into the “flow”; I lose track of time and enter a different space. If but for a moment, I forget the virus. 

This is a good time to reevaluate and recalibrate our lives

During “normal” times we can become anesthetized by our routines and steady schedules. But extraordinary times prompt us to examine our status quo and imagine a better plan. For instance, many of my friends have told me they are enjoying a slower pace and in particular, evenings spent with family. Post-pandemic they’re going to recalibrate their lives, slow down their pace, and prioritize family-time.  

Friends are invaluable

Each day I’ve been at home I’ve called about 15 friends, just to check on them and visit. Some conversations have been short, others lengthy. I have found great joy just in hearing the unique voices of each friend. I have often said, “It’s so good to hear your voice.” 

Harvey Mackay wrote a book titled Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty in which he espoused the value of business-networking and the importance of developing your network before you need it. We should apply the same approach to developing deep friendships. Throughout life, be intentional about cultivating friendships, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but in doing so you’ll create a “human safety net” that will be available in times of trouble.

Sharing our lives with caring friends reduces our burdens and increases our joy. 

Reading good books is one of the joys of life 

We read for the joy and benefit of thinking another person’s thoughts. Few things in life are so rewarding. I’m an avid reader, and during this crisis I’ve had more time than usual to read. 

Here are three books I’ve read recently that I highly recommend.

    • Educated by Tara Westover — Tara grew up in rural Idaho. Her family were members of a cult; they avoided modern medicine and Tara was seventeen years old when she first she set foot in a classroom. But at age 27 she received her Ph.D. in history from Cambridge University. This book is her story.  
    • The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson — The best book I have read on WW2. It focuses on Winston Churchill’s life and leadership. Seldom have I read a history book that is a page turner, but this is that.
    • The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis — Amos Tversky and Danial Kahneman had one of the great collaborative friendships in the world of science. Their work transformed behavioral economics. This is their story.  

Good leadership is indispensable in times of crisis.

Years ago I coined a phrase regarding the importance of leadership: The health and growth of all organizations rises and falls on leadership. As a result of the crisis we’re in, I’m now adding a phrase: The health and growth of all organizations rise and falls on leadership and leadership is most needed during times of crisis. 

In Larson’s book (which I mentioned above), he makes it clear that were it not for the exemplary leadership of Winston Churchill during WW2, the Allies probably would have lost the war and civilization would be vastly different than it is today.

Even experts can’t agree on important issues

I’m always amazed and stymied by the fact that intelligent, informed people can hold such different opinions regarding fundamental issues. For instance, during a recession, one group of Noble-prize-winning economists advocate austerity as the antidote. Other Noble-prize-winning economists champion economic stimulus as the answer. They can’t both be right.

During this crisis we’ve heard some experts recommend total social isolation while others think the entire ordeal is overblown and that we’re causing unnecessary and irreparable harm to our economy.  

The pain of abusive and dysfunctional households must be immense during this time

I am blessed to have a healthy and loving household in which to be quarantined. Mary and I have our moments, but in general we love and trust each other and get along well. 

I feel sad for those who are quarantined in a troubled household. To spend 24/7 with an unhealthy or abusive family member must be intolerable. 

God is our refuge and strength in time of trouble

The Psalmist experienced pandemic-like crises throughout his life. He even wrote a song about how he endured those trials. The lyrics start with a bold statement of faith: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” These are words to live by.

This too shall pass

An Eastern monarch asked his wise men to invent a phrase that would apply to all times and in all situations. After careful deliberation, they offered this statement: “And this too shall pass away.”

When Abraham Lincoln heard the story, he mused: “How much it expresses. How chastening in the hour of pride; how consoling in the depths of affliction.”

This time of crisis will pass. In some ways our world will never be the same because of it, but the intensity and restrictions of this season will fade.

What have you learned during this crisis?

Please share with me and fellow-subscribers, what you’re learning during this crisis. You can leave a reply below.