Several times over the years I have expressed complete exasperation about a person or group of people to my father-in-law. “How could anyone,” I will wonder aloud, “act that way in that moment? How could they be so…” cruel or ignorant or mean-spirited or whatever the case may be? Instead of joining my exasperation, he never fails to take his time, remind me of some difficulty in that person’s life, and then after a few quiet moments end with, “They’re doing the best they can.”
To be honest, it’s not nearly as satisfying to be reminded of the difficulties we all face rather than be encouraged in a moment of self-righteous indignation. Yet few moments in life have had as much effect on my ability to feel empathy for others as those moments where I’m reminded that others are often just doing the best they can.
At this very moment, there are people clamoring for all restrictions on movement to be lifted who have seen their livelihoods and businesses decimated because of the shutdown. At this same moment there are people who have lost loved ones or have a compromised immune system who are urging more caution and a slower approach until more is known. The same sentiments also get quickly overblown in people who question whether public health officials are conspiring against us or in others accusing business of indifference to death and suffering.
We have all been through a lot. As a whole, we are doing the best that we can. Maybe we just aren’t as ready for something like this as we thought we were. Sentiments are going to change. Data is going to change. People’s minds are going to change. We are going to be right about some things and wrong about a lot of others. Frustration mounts. And yet we are really all in this together. As members of a shared economy or as members of the human family, we are in this together. Acts and statements of decency and humanity and grace are going to get us through this challenging time much more so than acts and statements of frustration and accusation and paranoia. Let’s raise the level of conservation around us. Let’s show we can be comfortable with difference, difficulty, ambiguity, and competing interests without stooping to division. Hard moments are overcome better together. May our best efforts at unity this week be a little better than they were last week as we continue onward.
Nathan Dickson is an attorney with Jinks, Crow & Dickson, P.C.