Much of the time we have the luxury of ignoring the profound safety net we have as a city, state, nation, and world. We have the illusion we are doing everything all by ourselves. We forget our dentists, our doctors, our nurses, our police officers, our teachers, our car mechanics, our waitstaff, our manicurists, our hairdressers, our subsidies and supports, our food banks, our utilities, phone service and internet, our government workers and streets and sanitation workers, our yard maintenance people, post men and women, our handymen, painters, and repairpeople, our social workers, childcare workers, and agencies, our child welfare carers and our supports for the unemployed, ill, or destitute.
We have experienced several decades of relative peace and stability and so we don’t always remember the people who are supporting us in creating our lives. In the interest of efficiency, doing more with less, and accountability, we have reduced our spending on social services that are provided for people who cannot provide them for themselves, partly because we are not directly feeling a need ourselves most of the time. We feel noble when we think of people and donate something or lend a hand. We have closed hospital that do not turn a profit, and we have starved social service agencies out of business by cutting grants and funding.
Our current public health crisis shows us how inextricably we are intertwined with the other human beings on the planet. We count on each other to follow the rules of our community and to be responsible. We see that if we become compromised in any way, we will be dependent on the good will, the integrity, the knowledge, and the efforts of people who may not know us or have any obligation to provide care for us. People will do their jobs, but we want more than that when we are vulnerable. We want them to see us as individual people and to care about us and for us.
We are social beings, we need cooperative effort to make our social group work. Our lives are not a point count game with winners and losers. There is luck, there is chance, there is history, there is health, and there are the circumstances into which we were born. It does absolutely matter how we play the hand we are dealt, but every hand is different, and every person has to figure out how to live within the reality of their own experience. We aren’t in charge of everything. Actually we aren’t in charge of very much at all. We are just in charge of our choices and our perspectives. So maybe we will come out of this public health crisis with greater wisdom about the ineffable and essential nature of what we mean when we say “Community.”