Empathy is lacking in 2020. There’s plenty of sympathy. Parents feel bad for their children missing out on school festivities, such as homecoming and Powerpuff. Students feel bad for their teachers being forced to attend campus during a pandemic, putting themselves and their families at risk. Teachers feel bad for the administrators having to battle parents over contact tracing guidelines and quarantine.
Sympathy is passive. It makes the victim feel acknowledged, but not necessarily understood. It’s empathy that’s active and tells the victim, “I understand, and will help in any way I can.” Deciding to follow the rules and take COVID-19 seriously doesn’t make you a goody two shoes – it makes you a decent human being.
When sent home on Oct. 13 to quarantine for 14 days, I was both startled and distraught. My parents took COVID-19 seriously since it first made headlines in February. My sisters and I tried to keep ourselves and others safe. I will admit, we are not perfect. We still attend school in-person and see relatives and close friends. But we take masks and social distancing seriously, and pay close attention to who we allow into our contact circle. There’s a difference between trying to live your life safely, and simply being reckless. So I kept thinking to myself, “If only people were more empathetic. If only others followed guidelines. If only others took this seriously. If only I could be at school.”
In this new normal, empathy is our greatest weapon. Being able to think beyond what your wants and needs are is critical. Take caution in what you do, where you go and who you see. Because as safe as you try to be, there’s no telling how seriously others around you are taking the pandemic. Everyone needs to lead by example. We can’t afford to have outliers who treat COVID-19 as a joke, or don’t think it’s “a big deal.”
Quarantine was out of my control. I thought I’d followed all of the rules and listened to every guideline. But at the end of the day, I was still sent home. The lesson learned: the only person you can control in this situation, is yourself.
I don’t know how the e-learners manage. I didn’t enjoy the two-dimensional, limited view of school life I got from my computer screen. As stressful as school can be, I prefer seeing my teachers and classmates to talking at a computer screen. But the situation could always be worse, and that realization helped dispel the “if only’s.” My family, friends and myself are safe and healthy, and at the end of the day, that’s what matters.
Hear it from someone who loves being on campus: being forced to learn from home is miserable. So take COVID-19 seriously and follow what you’ve been asked to do. If you need to get tested, stay home. If you try your best to check every box and still find yourself being sent home to quarantine: then you can act as a warning to everyone else.