Most of us have been sitting at home for over a month now. We’ve all become Zoom and Google Classroom experts, disabled the screen time feature on our phones because it makes us feel bad about ourselves, and officially lost any semblance of a sleep schedule.
We’ve had lots of time to grieve what we’ve lost – daily interactions with friends and teachers, sports seasons, prom, graduation, the end of a school year that is, for seniors, their last. But while I reflect on what I’ve lost, I also think of the things I’m grateful to have had in the first place.
I think of the opportunity to go to school at all, while 15 million school-aged girls like me worldwide will never enter a classroom.
I think of the chance to be part of a team that continues to encourage one another from a distance, to have teachers who have dedicated themselves to educating me remotely, and to have access to the materials I need to learn digitally, while 169,000 North Carolina families live without internet access.
I think of the fact that I don’t have to worry about where my next meal will come from, and that for me, being at home isn’t dangerous or scary. On the contrary, more than 5,500 Durham Public Schools students rely on the district for daily meals, and more than 15 million American children are exposed to domestic violence in their homes each year.
I consider the fact that I live in a country where medical professionals are at the top of their field, one that has the infrastructure and resources to provide for its citizens, and one where health care workers are willing to risk a deadly virus to care for others. In Ecuador, bodies are lying in the streets while the country’s health care system is overwhelmed.
It strikes me that, while many families are being forced to give up so much more, the only thing that is being asked of me is to stay at home. So, while I don’t disqualify everything that this virus has cost us as students at Riverside, I consider myself lucky to have ever had all those things to lose. People around the world are being asked to sacrifice these things every day, and have been, long before a pandemic ever struck.
What if we took this chance to be grateful for all that we haven’t had to sacrifice? That means taking the initiative to protect our community during this unprecedented time. That means making the choice to stay home in order to save lives. But that also means not allowing our awareness to end whenever life gets back to “normal.”
For too long, we have allowed ourselves to remain complacent about the countless equity issues that a global pandemic forces us to confront. We can’t afford to ignore the blatant flaws in our system and, frankly, in our worldview, that allow our neighbors to suffer.
In times like these, staying at home is a privilege. We are the next generation. This is a major historical event, and we are living it. Are we going to allow it to shape our perspective, inform our policy, and teach us how to be the best possible citizens of the world? Or are we going to let our privilege cloud our ability to see these issues once again?