We are Not in this Together: Hate, Division and Acceptance
Dr. Lalit Chawla MD, CCFP, FCFP
I didn’t know what to share in this podcast. I didn’t want to do another episode around COVID-19. I wanted to focus on more positive things to lift our spirits. That’s why I released the interview I did with Hockey Legend Hayley Wickenheiser, who has such an even keel mindset and temperament. One thing she said that stayed with me is that “nothing is as great as it seems, and nothing is really as bad as it seems in life.” Know this comes from someone who won 7 World Championships, and 5 Olympic medals, 4 Gold and 1 Silver. She’s won the Order of Canada and done so much. If anyone has bragging rights, she certainly does, yet she’s one of the humblest people I know.
Hayley is always looking to find the brighter side of life and is able to be calm in a storm. If you’ve listened to that interview, I’d love to hear what you walked away with.
So … I’ve been thinking, now that we are several months into the pandemic and our lives have changed, there are lots of emotions happening. Initially, I think there was so much fear and anxiety because of the uncertainty about what would happen locally in our area and country. And that uncertainty still exists, but now the predominant mood appears to be that people are tired, restless, and confused about the future.
There appears to be a lack of empathy or even hate in some people’s social media posts or conversations. People seem to be more divided than ever before.
One thing I know that is useful as a reminder for myself, because it’s not always evident or apparent, is that not everybody is experiencing this pandemic and the restrictions equally.
Some people find their home as a new haven for rest while others are finding it a prison. Some love the time they have at home with themselves and their children and learning new life skills. Others are rising up, volunteering and helping people in the community. Some families and couples are becoming stronger and united.
Conversely, others are still working and afraid of whether they will bring an infection home to their family. They are trying to figure out how they will be managing their children’s education and well-being, as things are constantly changing.
Others are at home worried about how they will pay their bills as they’ve lost their job or had significant financial cutbacks in earnings.
I also know some people are at home scared about their safety and the safety of their children because of the abusive relationship they’re in. We know domestic violence has gone up; for some children, school is their only safe haven.
People are still feeling very lonely as they are confined in their apartments or home with limited social interactions. Mental health-related issues such as anxiety and depression have increased.
So, while we are in this pandemic together, we are not all experiencing it the same way together.
One thing that is appearing more and more evident is that people are becoming more divided on everyday issues or new government policies. Just look at the discussions regarding wearing masks, the opening and closing of services, etc.
People also have different ideas about the pandemic – if it’s real or a conspiracy – and we have people on both sides. Hate seems to be prevailing more and more now.
So, what is the solution?
I think we need to revisit a couple of principles, and the first one is that just because people don’t agree about a particular viewpoint or idea, it does not mean or should not mean that we hate each other. Hate is a powerful word that has a lot of intensity behind it. We need to relearn that we can disagree without being disagreeable. That’s part of living in a more open society. The notion of respectful debate and the right to voice our opinion and not silence other voices by oppression is something we value in our country. I think we are losing that notion. Just because I disagree with your idea or viewpoint doesn’t mean I hate you.
Each person has a different background and life story. We are all shaped by our experiences and beliefs. Not all of us have the same ability, resources, and awareness to respond in a situation.
I’m reminded of Maya Angelou’s quote:
“Do the best that you can until you know better.
Then when you know better, do better.”
We’ve all made our own mistakes. We sometimes struggle to understand our own life story, let alone understand others’ actions and opinions. When I remember that, it helps me become more compassionate and understanding about others and their viewpoints and situations.
So, while we are in this together, we are not experiencing it the same way together because we all have different life stories and circumstances. If we remember these above two points, we can become more united and connected as we move along in this pandemic.
May you and your family be healthy, happy, and safe during this time.
I hope this served you. Please share this message with others, if you think it might serve them or others they know.
Stay calm, find your daily joys, and live with intention.
Dr. Lalit Chawla, MD, CCFP, FCFP
A highly sought after International Speaker, Family Physician in Chatham, Ontario, and an Adjunct Professor at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry in London, Ontario.