When Tragedy Surrounds Us
Amidst the news of Covid-19 outbreaks spreading from China to Italy to Brazil, there was a tornado that destroyed hundreds of homes where my family lives in central Tennessee. More than 20 people died in Nashville that early morning March 3. Schools closed. Emergency services were called.
While my family was safe, many others were not. Homes, vehicles, and loved ones were lost. Friends who are still in Nashville posted pictures of the wreckage. This personal tragedy seemed more real to me than the Covid-19 spreading steadily around the globe.
But I also teach students in China via an online platform. Even as they are learning English, the message is clear: “I can’t go outside. It’s boring. I only study, study, study. When will we go outside?” The uncertainty is gripping in their own personal nightmare.
Then March 8 in México — where I currently live — there were large nationwide marches to advance the rights of women, to demand more protection against violence, to insist on equality. These women are living their own tragedy. They are watching their own nightmare.
And here we are caught in the middle of so much devastation.
Because we are more interconnected than ever, it’s easy to turn from one post to another — talk to one person then another — and see tragedy after tragedy across the globe.
There’s part of me that blames social media for the fear that spreads more quickly than a virus.
At the same time, however, I see social media as a tool that has united people and spurred them to action. We’ve had outbreaks before. We’ve had natural disasters before. We’ve had marches before.
But today — with all our online interconnectedness — we can share information about how to combat the outbreak, how to slow the spread, how to monitor the virus, how to help the most people as possible.
And today —through Facebook shares and tweets — people have donated and volunteered to help those affected by the Tennessee tornadoes. On the ground action is a direct result of social media shares to help those in greatest need. The city of Nashville is being rebuilt.
Around the world today — through Twitter and YouTube and What’sApp — women have united to stand up to the patriarchal systems. Women understand their power as never before. From small towns to big cities, women read of the assaults, murders, rapes, and injustices done to other sisters, mothers, daughters, and see themselves. Mirrored in the faces of not just others in their country, but women in every nation — there are cries for justice, peace, and equality. And women are able to unite to stop a city, a country, a world — to pause and listen.
Even with all the tragedies I’ve witnessed in the first 10 days of March, more than ever, I am filled with hope in humanity. I choose to believe in human goodness.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
We might never see the outcomes of all we fight for today. We might feel overwhelmed by too many injustices and hardships. We might not know where to begin.
In the face of global tragedies, I choose one thing I can do.
Choose today to smile at a stranger, say good morning to the person who rings up your groceries, call your mother to tell her you love her.
Each small, individual action bends the universe towards the good. I choose to believe there are more of us than those who wish to cause harm.
Social media has shown me that we exist in massive numbers —
In the images of caring nurses in Wuhan, China — to the football players removing tornado debris in Nashville — to the Mexican mothers pushing their young daughters in strollers as they marched the streets together.
We are here.
we bring light.