Accepting Learning Curves

By NANCY PATRICK

Successful people understand the value of life-long learning. I acknowledge that keeping my mind active by learning new skills and concepts will stave off brain laziness. On the other hand, I confess that I no longer learn as eagerly as I once did. I realized this in the early ’90s when I took on a new teaching assignment that required teaching composition using Mac computers. 

I had foolishly thought that if I fought technology hard enough, it would go away and leave me alone. (I said foolishly!) When I realized I had to teach not only composition skills but computer skills as well, I felt like a first-grader on the first day of school. Talk about feeling out of my depth! I knew then that living would require continued learning, so I committed myself to facing new situations as they arose.

Well, the year 2020 has thrown me into another learning curve. Early in the year, I began hearing a new phrase—”novel coronavirus.” When people began referring to it on Facebook, I learned that coronavirus itself is not new, hence, the adjective “novel.” Evidently, the old coronavirus mutated to a broader virus by the same name. Most of us now shorten the term to COVID-19 as we all now know more than we ever wanted to know.

Other terms entered my vocabulary as well, some new and some not so new. I had never heard the term PPE until reporters began it. Then I understood when nurses and other healthcare professionals pleaded for more personal protective equipment. 

I also became much more aware of the dangers our healthcare workers face each day as they deal with this deadly virus. Not only do they face danger for themselves, but also they fear carrying the virus home to their families. In addition to facing the threat of the virus itself, healthcare workers deal with the total physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion at the end of each long shift.

I knew about ventilators but had no idea they would become a major topic on all COVID updates each day. Hospitals ran out of ventilators, thus attributing to many unnecessary deaths. I learned that no matter how state-of-the-art healthcare facilities have become, they do not have the ability to deal with the enormity of a pandemic. 

Pandemics and natural disasters remind us of our place in the universe as they remind us that God, not we, have the power to control. We can do only so much in the way of preparation to fight horrific enemies.

During this pandemic, I met, via the media, several people whom I have grown to respect. One of them, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has become the face of COVID for many people. A medical expert in the field of immunology and infectious diseases, he has shown his strong character as he persists in presenting scientific facts, refusing to yield to political pressures that some have put upon him. He continues to exhibit his ethics and integrity in the midst of one of America’s most difficult trials.

Another person I grew to respect, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, conducted daily news conferences for over a month while New York endured the first wave of the pandemic. The governor presented himself as an honest, open-minded, intelligent, and caring individual. He shared New York’s health statistics, answering questions without hesitation. He shared many stories about his family and how much he worried about his elderly mother in the midst of the crisis. 

Watching and listening to someone like Governor Cuomo inspired me not to give up on our political institutions. Although politics regarding this virus have become volatile and nasty, many leaders have held firmly to their integrity and moral standards in the face of criticism and doubt.

I think everyone in the world has been affected by the COVID pandemic, some much more than others. Obviously, an obscene number of people have died after suffering the pangs of the illness, leaving grieving families to deal with the losses. Many people lost their jobs, and thus their incomes, forcing them to accept public assistance for the first time in their lives. 

Food lines continue to stretch for blocks and blocks around food banks. Unprecedented numbers of people have filed for unemployment as many lost their homes because they could not pay rent or mortgages. 

Schools closed, forcing students to miss the last quarter of their school year. Teachers, students, employers, church leaders, congregants, and just about everyone else learned to use Zoom, a technology that allows many activities to take place virtually. That term “virtually” has taken on a completely new meaning over the past few months.

The COVID pandemic has impacted everyone. We have become accustomed to wearing masks to protect each other from virus germs spreading through the air. We wash our hands until they become raw and use hand sanitizer by the gallon. 

We stay six feet away from others in what we call social distancing. If we get close enough to someone to touch, we certainly do not shake hands; we may bump elbows. We also have postponed or cancelled family visits and dream vacations because we know that travel increases the risk of contracting or spreading the virus.

To say the year 2020 has been tough states it mildly. Hardly anyone alive today has ever experienced anything like our current pandemic. We also know that this stressful time will likely carry over into 2021. We have very little control, but we can make responsible choices. We can think of others first rather than our own comfort or displeasure. 

We can pray for all the scientists working on a vaccine. We must pray for all the first responders and healthcare workers around the world. They have the hardest jobs in existence right now. And we must pray for all those families who have suffered from this terrible virus. Of course, we must pray for world leaders to make prudent decisions regarding the virus.

We need to recognize our place in the circle of humanity. We share our humanity with everyone else. We must cultivate patience and kindness. Our civilization depends on our ability to retain our humanity and recognize that all races, religions, genders, political factions, and socio-economic groups have their places. This new life curriculum involves learning how to survive and improve our human condition.

 Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing

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