The value of a human life is not diminished because there are seven and a half billion of us. Can you remember that scene in Schindler’s List when the little girl in the red coat ambles through the black-and-white rubble of a devastated city? She is that anonymous statistic bestowed with color, that rare person you care about chosen by fate to die because that is what fate does.
The masks are a Dumbo feather of hope, a means for those unable to control the virus to control us. Yet, we should wear them. People will die as they always have, as they always will. When life begins to overwhelm me, I often look to my oldest son for balance. Balance is something that comes naturally to him. My wife and I purchased him the Rollerblades he requested for his tenth birthday. With the schools closed and so much free time, he’s been reading those children’s biographies with the oversized heads on the miniature bodies. The most recent one was Who was George Washington? It turns out that the father of our nation was likely rendered sterile by smallpox and nearly lost a leg to anthrax. In spite of these pathogens, he did not hide in his basement or place a dome around the thirteen colonies. Flawed as his teeth, he fought to free some so the rest could one day finish the job.
I ran into an old coworker today on the downtown mail docks. In catching up, she informed that she had contracted COVID a month ago and was glad to be feeling better. I asked what it was like and she told me it was similar to the flu with a fever that lasted three days. She went on to share how much her preschool-aged daughter, who was sick with it as well, struggled to breathe. She administered the girl steroids and seriously considered admitting her to a hospital where she would have only been permitted to interact with her via a video monitor as if one of them were on a space station.
Finally, I know, on this seventh day of May, someone who has had COVID 19. The reality of the virus draws closer to me, becoming more real as I push back against the restrictions and wonder who in a red coat I kill or cure by liberating.