COVID-19, virtual learning, social distancing, unemployment, civil unrest, the election cycle, and the winter apocalypse. What a decade. Right now more than ever, we need to hold tight to the concept of empathy. As we react to our individual challenges, it is important that we acknowledge and understand the challenges faced by others. We do not have to agree with one another. We do not have to embrace the same feelings or share the same perspective. We simply need to be there for each other during a time that requires isolation and physical distancing.
Within a matter of weeks, our world changed dramatically. Millions of children across the United States began their Spring Break with travel plans ahead, only for those plans to be cancelled and Spring Break to be extended well into the summer. Americans went into complete isolation. Nursing homes went on complete lockdown. Celebrations and vacations were cancelled. We have been urged to remain distant and isolated. We must wear a mask or be denied service. We are living in a unique time that presents unique challenges.
To date, millions of Americans have been infected. The mortality rate has hit an unprecedented all-time high. Still, many Americans are without work and continue to struggle to make ends meet. Children are playing a game of ping pong between virtual learning and in-person schooling. Our world, as we knew it, has changed. We are more vulnerable than ever.
As if a world health pandemic isn’t enough, add a modern civil rights movement to the equation. Racism has emerged more so now than ever, from inequalities in the effects of the pandemic, to the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Millions of Americans have taken a stance against racism and police brutality. We saw people from all different walks of life band together during a pandemic, to protest the inequalities that have plagued our country since the beginning of time. Americans have been tasked with protecting themselves from a disease, while simultaneously combating racism – a disease so ingrained in our country.
We spent 2020 fighting for two competing causes: health and equality, while also battling an administration with very little regard for the American people. To make things more interesting for Americans, let’s throw a highly contested election cycle into the mix and see what happens, shall we? During the latter half of 2020, Americans were being implored to flock to their nearest polling site to vote in one of the most highly contested elections of our modern time. We abandoned the concept of social distancing and stood in lines next to complete strangers to vote. We wore our masks, we tried to social distance, and we fought to combat racism in the biggest way we knew how: by voting!
If we did not think things could get any crazier, boy, were we wrong. As you know, everything is bigger in Texas. So, why not? Let’s kick off 2021 by adding a winter apocalypse to our recipe for disaster. Just shy of the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 in the United States, millions of Texans whose health and finances were already battered by a year of COVID-19 now face a grinding recovery from a winter storm estimated to cost an upward of $20 billion, the costliest in state history. Texas’ power grid failure left millions of Texans without electricity and heat for days. Once again, Texans were urged to abandon social distancing and to seek shelter at churches, warming centers, or with family and friends. Once power was finally restored, millions more Texans discovered that their water taps had run dry, pipes had burst or water treatment plants had failed, and that they had to boil their water before using it. Hospitals already overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients were now being flooded with patients suffering from hypothermia or carbon monoxide poisoning. Texans were tossed from one crisis to another with no help in sight.
We have been through a lot since January 2020. As a collective, it is important that we take care of one another. Empathize with your family member, friend, neighbor, or colleague. We are all in this together and better days are ahead. Until then, stay strong Texas.