The Best in Us

COUNCIL PERSPECTIVES

by Rebecca Noecker

As I write this column, it is March 18, 2020, and the world has been thrown into a state of uncertainty and upheaval unlike any most of us have ever known.
The COVID-19 virus has immediately and obviously disrupted every part of our community. The virus itself has sickened many of our residents, and the closures and cancelations that have been necessary to prevent its spread have had dramatic impacts on our economy and our daily routines.
The virus has also had other effects — ones that are less obvious, but perhaps more valuable.
We have become grateful for the systems and the people who continue working to keep us afloat in troubling times. This emergency has made us especially attuned to and appreciative of the things we normally take for granted — basic infrastructure like our water system and electrical grid, our hospitals and clinics, our government agencies and public safety departments, and the people who tirelessly keep them going every day.
We have come face-to-face with the reality that we are part of something larger than ourselves. We may like to believe that we are independent and self-sufficient, making our own way through the world, but a pandemic reminds us that we are inextricably connected not only to those in our own communities but to everyone everywhere.
We have been reminded of our common humanity. The virus knows no boundaries of gender, race, education, religion, geography or income. While we may normally focus on our differences, a global pandemic reminds us that we are all, ultimately and essentially, the same.
And we have risen to the challenge. As St. Paulites have done in every crisis in our history, we have shown that we can bear personal hardship to protect our neighbors, that we can put aside our individual needs for the sake of the common good. My voicemail and inbox have been full of messages from people asking how they can volunteer, business owners willing to donate space for supply distribution and restaurateurs offering meals for people who are homebound.
I’ve often wondered why it takes a crisis to bring out the best in us, why we need to be fighting a common and immediate foe in order to be united, resolute and selfless. Could we come together to defeat other enemies — like poverty, climate change, or desperate shortages of child care and affordable housing? Could we sacrifice our personal interests for the sake of our broader community, not just to tackle biological threats but social ones too?
By the time you read these words, the situation may be very different than it is today. But regardless of the trajectory of this crisis, or when we emerge from its grip, I hope we will come out of this experience stronger, more aware of our connections and responsibilities to one another, and awakened to the best that is in us.
Meet Rebecca Online: How to Reach Me: ward2@ci.stpaul.mn.us; 651-266-8620. See the Ward 2 Facebook page for virtual events: 4/7, 12-12:45pm Virtual Lunch with Rebecca; 4/23, 5-5:45pm, Virtual Happy Hour; 5/5, 12-12:45pm, Virtual Lunch.

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