I would like to pay tribute, not to an individual, but to countless individuals who make sacrifices every day to help keep others safe. They do this day after day, month after month, because they believe that small gestures, if embraced by many, add up to become grand gestures.
I am referring to all the people who choose to not swap air with others. We have sacrificed countless events in the past 10 months because it seems like the very least we can do. We have shed plenty of tears, thinking about those we have not hugged, or even seen, in such a long time. We have grieved, knowing there are some in our lives that we may never see again. Yet, we remain firmly committed to the greater good, knowing this, too, shall pass. We find ways to make life feel meaningful and rich. We find ways to safely help and serve others. On those days when we feel utterly helpless in the face of a devastating pandemic, we can take refuge in the knowledge that not swapping air matters. Not swapping air may keep another person alive.
As a psychotherapist, I leave my (virtual) office every night with tears of anger and sadness, having spent countless hours listening both to the stories of those who are suffering and to the stories of those who are living their best lives without seemingly having any regard as to how that might impact others. Then I hop onto social media and read the stories of those who are doing all in their power to protect others by simply not swapping air. I check my nightly CIDRAP news brief and know that this outstanding organization is staffed by non-air-swapping individuals committed to keeping others safer, and to finding the answers we need to lead us out of these dark days. I listen to The Osterholm Update, to the wisdom and compassion it embodies, and to Dr. Osterholm’s passionate pleas about the importance of not swapping air. And my spirits feel a bit lighter.
To anyone who might read or hear these words, please know that YOU are my heroes. At a time when we can easily feel powerless, there is strength in numbers. It heals my heart, at least for a moment in time, to know that there are others who pursue the best information the field has to offer, and translate that into the willingness to make personal sacrifices so others might thrive