A friend posted a fun question on social media: In an economic collapse, what skills, services, or items could we use to barter or benefit the community? It’s a half-serious question but serious food for thought.
What could I offer my fellow humans if the community suddenly needed my active involvement? I responded that I would most certainly be the village bard; I would tell the tales of the way the world was before, the plague that changed it, and how we survived to create again.
But what else could I offer? What useful skills do I possess? I don’t think snark and a wicked sense of humor will be much in demand in the way of practicalities, but I am incredibly resourceful. I can stretch a dollar until George Washington cries “Uncle!”, and I’m good with managing time. I didn’t think of those things as true skill sets until I was examining my role in this imagined community.
I started thinking about who we’ll all be when this global crisis settles back into a new normal. How sad would it be if we remained unchanged?
The big things that happen in our lives absolutely should change us. Otherwise, we’re just stubbornly refusing to grow and learning nothing from our experiences. It’s doubtful that very many of us have experienced anything on this scale in our lives, and while terrible and tragic, it offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
What will we learn about ourselves and our world from this hardship?
If we refuse to grow and learn nothing, our normal on the other side of this will look mostly the same — with a little economic hardship and/or grief thrown in the mix. We’ll be who we once were, doing all the things we think we should. Our lives will continue on the same well-trodden path all the way up until our inevitable end.
It’s a story, but it lacks imagination.
Say, instead, that we allow a global crisis and the personal setbacks to make us better, stronger, and kinder humans?
What if — just imagine it — we emerged from this ordeal and embraced who we always were rather than who we thought we were supposed to be?
This new hypothetical community will need its bards to tell its stories, but it will need craft persons, artists, and innovators. It will need builders and protectors, farmers and alchemists, priests and witches, warriors and peacemakers. It will need originals — not carbon copies. The world will need who we were born to be — not who we imagined we were when we followed all the rules and did what we were told.
Imagine if we used what happened to make us bolder — to say what needs to be said, to commit to the ones we love, to leave the ones we don’t, to start a new adventure, to draw an old adventure to a close, and to live the lives today that we’ve always wanted but never had the courage to embrace.
Imagine if we used today’s hardship to make us stronger — to care more fully for our bodies and minds, not to fit anyone else’s standards but to feel the best that we’ve ever felt.
Imagine if we stopped viewing fitness and healthy eating as punishment.
Imagine if we used the time to grow our minds, to learn something new, to meditate more.
Imagine if we stopped shaming ourselves, started forgiving others, and loved with an abandon we couldn’t previously imagine.
Imagine if we used this time to realize our shared humanity — to strengthen our compassion, to invest in our connection, and to put aside all the differences that have divided us to celebrate our shared humanity.
Imagine a world where our politicians were held to the same standards and were tasked with working for the collective rather than their individual parties or agendas.
Imagine if our communities helped those in need without them having to beg for it, if we reached out to connect on purpose and not just when we had no other choice, and if our generosity extended out regularly rather than with reluctance.
Imagine if we advocated for the rights of others as vigorously as we protected our own.
Imagine if we came out on the other side with gratitude and compassion for the planet we’re living on and all the natural things that grow and live upon it.
Imagine if we emerged to plant community gardens or to support park spaces.
Imagine if we protected lands and peoples and insisted on the humane treatment of all beings and took the poisoning out of processing.
Imagine if we were as connected to nature as we were to each other and if we protected it with the same fervor we’d use to protect ourselves.
Imagine if we fought for peace as vigorously as we fight our wars. If we came to the table with calm and a sense of knowing rather than weighted with our anger and righteous indignation.
Imagine if we worked out our disputes by acknowledging them and seeking solutions that considered the collective.
Imagine a world where peace was something other than a pipe dream.
Of course, I’m just a writer who is a storyteller who might one day be the village bard. I’m trying to remember how this felt, how it feels now. I want to record it for posterity, to remind us that we are stronger than we ever knew. I don’t know how this will end, but already, I shape the telling of it. I know who I am. I know my role.
But even as I record events, I’m doing the only thing I can — I’m making myself better. I’m taking my vitamins and exercising my body and preparing healthy meals. I meditate more, and when I connect, I’m fully present. I’m learning new things and sitting with uncomfortable feelings and figuring out who I want to be when this is over, who I want to be with and how I’ll want to live.
Things that don’t matter fall away. Things that do rise up. I’m paying attention. I’m practicing compassion. I’m more committed than I’ve ever been to the path that I chose, the one that allows me to be who I always was.
The world doesn’t need anyone doing what they think they should. It needs people living deeply and intentionally shaping their lives. It needs us as we were meant to be. The world needs our natural selves, the ones so often shamed as being flawed or incomplete.
When the world starts turning again, when things seem ordinary once more — whatever that will mean, who will you be?
Will you emerge unchanged and get back to business as usual?
Or will you emerge with eyes on fire and warmth in your heart for the world around you? Will you be kinder, smarter, stronger, and filled with love? Will you choose the rest of your life or accept it happening to you?
Will you be who you are supposed to be?
Or will you, finally, be who you are?