Bart Worden, Opinion contributor
Asheville Citizen-Times; Published 12:01 a.m. ET March 24, 2020 | Updated 12:07 p.m. ET March 26, 2020
This is an opportunity to take an introspective look at yourself, to think about what you most value, to consider how you will live a meaningful life.
It’s hard to stay positive these days. Take a look at your phone, turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper, and the news about COVID-19 is prevalent and scary.
Worse, the restrictions we are urged to enforce to minimize risk of spreading the coronavirus are, to say the least, challenging for people who would otherwise be enjoying the company of friends and co-workers. Instead we are hunkered down in our dwellings, foraging for staples, doing the best we can to stay safe and ensure the safety of others by keeping our distance.
Yet, this also is an opportunity to take an introspective look at yourself, to think about what you most value, to consider how you will live a meaningful life.
For more than 35 years, I have been a member of an organization that specializes in living a good and meaningful life that benefits others as well as myself. The Ethical Culture Society of Westchester in White Plains, New York, is a humanist congregation that, in its nearly 100 years of existence, has provided avenues for people to explore what matters most and to find ways to act that lead to compassion, fairness and joy in the world around us. The society is a member of a larger federation of ethical societies, the American Ethical Union, and together we work to make a better world through ethical living.
Draw out best in each other
Ethical living is always a joint endeavor. It’s all about how we live together, how we interact with people, how we draw out the best of humanity in one another. Social connection is the vehicle and the fuel for living ethically: It’s how we learn and grow, and where the fruits of our learning and growth are realized.
This pandemic has provided an opportunity to appreciate our common vulnerability and better realize the importance of working in concert to face a disease that poses a significant threat to our country and to civilizations around the world. A critical ingredient for resisting this pandemic is to recognize our reliance on one another and to support every person’s efforts to live responsibly.
No one is immune to contracting the virus, and the impetus is on entire communities to stop the spread. We must lean on and take care of our neighbors in a way that, up until a few weeks ago, was optional. It is critical that every person abides by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Focus on the common good
These rules have forced us to stop and think about what they can do for the common good. We have a unique chance to recognize the important role we play in our world and think about how we can take care of each other. We must not squander it.
Because ethical societies can’t hold physical gatherings for the foreseeable future, AEU is launching an interactive forum called “Connections” on our website to share ideas and resources to promote new avenues for social connection.
Caring teams at our ethical societies also are reaching out by phone and video conference to vulnerable or isolated individuals, and we’ve made many of our online meetings and activities open to all. We encourage everyone to check out the web forum or find the society nearest to them and tune in. It is our mission to make sure that anyone in need of community during this time of social distancing has a place to go, even if that place is temporarily virtual.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, we must focus on the beams of light shining through the clouds. Better yet, we must work to be the light. Humanity has always been intrinsically connected, but now we’re seeing those connections on a global scale. These times may feel dark and unpredictable, but one thing is certain: We will emerge stronger if we focus on and nourish the interconnectivity that makes us human.
Bart Worden is executive director for the American Ethical Union and leader for the Ethical Culture Society of Westchester in White Plains, New York.