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If you are of a certain age, you might remember the occasional interruption we used to have when watching television.  Unexpectedly, the show would stop, the screen would go blank, and then you would see and hear these words, “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.  This is only a test.  If this had been an actual emergency…”  It was sort of amusing.  Because there never was an actual emergency…

Well, now, years later, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are in the midst of an actual emergency.  For those of us who didn’t live through a world war, this is our first real emergency.  Yes, September 11th was an emergency, but it was very localized.  Only three areas of the United States were affected.  This emergency spans not only across the United States, but across the globe.

However, this pandemic isn’t just an emergency.  It is also a test.  It is a test of whether each of us is willing to be inconvenienced for the greater good.  Unfortunately, there are some people who are failing that test.

Recently, I have seen reports of individuals who are protesting being quarantined.  They feel that their rights are being trampled upon.  They feel that their right to sunbathe at the beach is very important.  They feel that their right to go to church and worship with other people is also important.  And I agree that those rights are important.

But those rights aren’t as important as our primary obligation to protect society’s most vulnerable.  Fulfilling that obligation is what makes us decent human beings.  Unfortunately, many in our society are annoyed by this obligation and its requisite sacrifices.

In my own state, the governor recently said that people have complained to his office about our school closures.  They want their kids to return to school immediately.  I should point out that my state has one of the highest numbers of Covid-19 cases in the country.  It is beyond me how could any responsible parent would want to send their child back to school at this point.  And yet, they do.  Having to home school their children is a sacrifice that they don’t want to make.

Similarly, parents don’t want their children to miss all the end of year festivities due to the pandemic restrictions.  I have an 18-year-old high school senior, and some parents are fretting about their children missing out on a formal graduation and the prom.  I find that hard to believe.  People are sick and dying daily from this illness.  The last thing that I am concerned about is whether my child will be able to walk on stage to receive her diploma or toss her graduation cap in the air.  Yes, that would be a nice experience.  But not at the cost of hundreds of kids (and their parents) getting infected with this illness due to attending a graduation ceremony.

The bottom line:  This is a test.  It is a test of your values.  It is a test of what you think is truly important.  And it is a test of whether you are willing to sacrifice for others.

The World War II generation, known as the Greatest Generation, understood the value of sacrifice.  They made huge sacrifices for the benefit of other people.  And they did it without whining.  They weren’t concerned about their ability to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks or whether they could go to the beach.  They were a generation who were willing to make real sacrifices for others.  They went to war and made life and death sacrifices for the betterment of society.

By comparison, we are being asked to do very little.  Being confined to our homes is not a major catastrophe.  Not being able to go to church or out to dinner is not a tragedy.  These are merely inconveniences.  That is all.  And having your kids home from school may be a little bit irritating, but it isn’t a reason to complain to your elected officials.

Of course, there are real stressors involved in this pandemic.  Being out of work is stressful.  Having an ill family member is stressful.  Worrying about how you are going to pay your bills is stressful.  But complaining because you can’t go away for spring break or enjoy dinner at your favorite restaurant is simply first world whining.

The good news is that while some people are failing the Pandemic Test, others are passing it with flying colors.  Our healthcare workers, grocery clerks, and delivery people are getting straight As.  For example, there is a young lady who regularly delivers groceries to my elderly mother.  She is responsible and thoughtful, and she understands the importance of her job.  She gets a gold star in my book.  And frankly, anyone who practices social distancing and is staying home gets an A+, as well.

Of course, we can make up all kinds of excuses as to why we shouldn’t have to make these sacrifices.  We can argue that statistically speaking, there are many things that are far deadlier than the coronavirus.  So, why should we have to quarantine ourselves in our homes?  We can argue that the health of our economy is more important than the number of people who may die from this virus.  So why should our shops be closed?  We can argue that being asked to stay home is a violation of our constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Or, we can stop being so profoundly selfish.  We can stop coming up with excuses for why we can’t do something as simple as stay at home so that other people don’t have to die.  We can be the kind of society that cares for its most vulnerable because it is the right thing to do.

We are living in a defining moment in history.  And at the end of this pandemic, each of us will need to take a long hard look at ourselves and ask, “Did I pass the Pandemic Test?  Did I rise to the occasion and sacrifice for my fellow man?”  Each of us should hope that by the end of this pandemic, we will be getting an A.


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