Finding humanity in 2020

Sweta Vikram

While this year has revealed to us the many limits of mankind and the extent of human bias and ignorance, it has also taught us about resilience, humanity, and faith.
From the incarcerated man in my mindfulness and meditation virtual workshop who told me how grateful he was to be breathing despite being a Black man in America, to friends who found support in unexpected places when their family members were battling COVID, I have heard stories that have moved me and reminded me about compassion.
Sure, there are people who are capable of hurting others; by the same token, there are those who restore your faith in humankind.
I heard, read about, and saw people in communities come together to help those less fortunate than themselves. For instance, an Indian woman who lives uptown and humbly chooses to remain anonymous told me, “Essentially some of us in the building formed a group that would help elderly neighbors as needed. So, I picked up groceries for a couple of them. This woman in our building was the hero though: I believe she cooked for them for more than a month.”
Clinical nutritionist Anna Almiroudis’s, father was hit with COVID. He was hospitalized for a few weeks. I first-hand knew how stressed the family was with the uncertainty surrounding his recovery and well-being.
I asked Anna if she experienced anything humane while enduring personal trauma.
She said, “The simplest act of nurses using their personal cell phones and risking their health to make sure we could see and speak to our dad meant so much to me in my vulnerable and helpless state.”

Sometimes, a shift in perspective is all that we need

We all have our own internal boundaries, I suppose. I went for daily walks when NYC was the epicenter for coronavirus. But even after NYC went into phase 4 of reopening, I couldn’t muster the courage to visit a hair salon. When I reached out to my hairdresser to check on her whereabouts, she mentioned that she had suffered huge losses and was working only a few days a week to limit exposure to the virus. I asked if she was comfortable to come home on her day off to give my husband and me a haircut. She jumped with joy; I almost cried with gratitude.
Relationships work best if neither party feels exploited. We offered to pick up and drop off our hairdresser, so she wasn’t exposed to the virus on the subway. It made us feel safer too. We bought her a new face shield, mask, and gloves. I cooked her favorite entrée and packed it up so she didn’t have to go home and worry about dinner. We made sure that we tipped her well, too.
It has become our monthly ritual now — an evening with our hairdresser – and I know both parties look forward to it.
Lead elementary teacher, Kim Benvegna, told me about Eric, a gentleman in her neighborhood whom her husband befriended soon before the quarantine began. While Kim’s husband treated Eric to a large tea with lemon as well as a toasted bagel with cream cheese once or twice a week. Eric, on his part, made a point of stopping in at the local CityMD and pediatric office every day to clap and cheer for the staff and doctors. Pay it forward. Given that Kim is a teacher, it meant a lot to her what Eric did next.
“Eric also made a special effort to ask folks if they were teachers or parents, declaring them essential workers too, and extending the same courtesy to these individuals as he did to the doctors, nurses, and medical staff. Eric is a humble and treasured spirit, and we are glad that in the midst of these trying times, there are still people like him in our world.”

The many benefits of optimism

When 16-year-old California-transplant Tushita Sinha told me about her new neighbors in Utah, I got misty-eyed.
While the BLM movement has shown us how broken America is in some spaces, her experience reminded me that healing also exists.
“When we moved here, our neighbors told us about gardeners, the trash system, gave us a care basket with lots of cookies, homemade cake, few baking supplies, and some other things,” Sinha said. “They even invited us to a social distancing barbecue.”
People ask why I chase positive stories. Ayurveda teaches us that our mental health drives everything. We need a positive mindset to enjoy good physical and emotional health. It can be so easy to feel like everyone in the world is bad. All you need to do is go check the latest news to become incredibly depressed about the state of the world.
I am not saying that evil does not exist. I am not saying that a hug and a pat on the back can stop all the problems in the world. But there is always good in the world, even in the worst situations. We should choose to change our lens and navigate the world accordingly.
Whatever we think about the world becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we want to create a world of peace, then we have to believe that it is possible.