An Open Letter to our Invisible Enemy: Dear COVID-19,

 In Compassion, Promoting Tolerance

Dear COVID-19,

What you have done to our world is beyond belief. Nobody ever imagined that an invisible force had the absolute power to destroy communities worldwide. Our loved ones, innocent as can be, are murdered in your ruthless, bloody hands. You’ve declared total war on us all, exhausting medical soldiers on the front lines. Vulnerable, helpless. 

Our president says we’ll be fine. Media outlets tell us to stay home so we can ‘flatten the curve.’ But the curve only compresses–its peak reaches new heights every hour. This can only get worse before it gets better. We are ill prepared. Our healthcare system is devastated by the overwhelming influx of patients holding on to their last breaths of life. You’re sneaky and cunning, telling our bodies you’ve arrived after two weeks of hiding. Ya sure, just a common cold; sneezing here and there, no big deal. We don’t even have enough tests. Just stay home. And then we can’t breathe. We don’t have enough medical equipment. Hospitalization. With doctors and nurses contracting this contagion, who will take care of the sick?  Mr. President, we are not fine.

Things change by the minute. First, you shut down our schools. It’s my senior year, my last prom, my last athletic season, and my last few months to cherish with friends. I just got admitted into my dream school! Will I move into my college dorm this August?  

Then our gyms, our restaurants, and our movie theaters closed their doors. No services until further notice. Social distancing: no group gatherings. When will this end?  Sports seasons: cancelled. Local elections: postponed. Concert halls: empty, choking on their silenced tears in darkness. We wait for the music of hope to play, we yearn for sparks of light again. But we’re taken hostage, removed from our daily activities and pleasures. Pure isolation.

My friends call me. I hear pain in their voice. They won’t get their paycheck this Friday. I just spent so much money shopping! Darn, I should’ve saved it. Stupid coronavirus. I can overhear their parents frantically managing their stocks in the background. Our market is diseased, investors are nauseated. Our economy has suffered a thousand fold, coughing up billions of dollars. Interest rates are at zero: chilled, frozen. The mere panic and fear of the pandemic has shocked our system. 

Yesterday, I visited my local grocery store. Seriously, it’s the only place people go these days. An excuse to escape confinement, seeking warmth from the bright colours of ripened fruits and piles of fresh vegetables. Maybe with plenty of time on my hands, I’ll cook a nice dinner tonight: oven-roasted butternut squash with a hearty piece of grilled salmon topped with garlic butter. Perhaps some oozing chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Happiness found in this new world. But my optimistic imagination ran too far. My dream–shattered. Empty shelves, stripped of their dignity by the selfishness of people in panic. Two elderly women with masks hiding their wrinkled faces fight over the last clove of garlic. I’m out of luck. I can’t even find a single roll of toilet paper. Lines trail back and snake around the isles. I’ll just go home. 

Yep, you win COVID-19. You’ve brought out the worst in us. But we will not give you reason to think you’ve ravaged our society. And with every life you take, we intensify our efforts to reverse your evil spell. Thank you Mayor Cuomo of New York City. Our vengeance is coming, we just haven’t devised a strategy yet. 

You may not realize it, but we are gifted too. You will force us to change our attitude: compassion, empathy, love, kindness. People, stop hoarding. I’ve never seen shortages here. I just needed bread to make breakfast for my family this morning. Of course, there was none left at the store. A mother of three who took six loaves shared one with me. Really? Wow, people are starting to understand. In times like these, we must open our hearts. I thanked her and offered her one of the last sticks of butter I had picked up. The art of the deal. 

I don’t really know what it’s like not to have. My basic needs have always been fulfilled. I live a life of privilege, and in America, most of us live in abundance. Don’t take it for granted. We are all at risk. We take precautions to keep our communities safe. We wash our hands. We lend support to those victimized by your nasty, unforgiving plague.

I look forward to my runs outside every morning, the cool wind blowing against my face. Just me, my excited legs, and the solidarity of nature against it all. They say carbon emissions will reduce significantly; there’s hardly a single car on the road. Sometimes, my dad comes too. Afterwards we wind down on the couch, spreading a large fluffy blanket over the both of us. Unconditional love. We exchange thoughts on books we devour and suggest movies to watch after midnight. 

Parents appreciate this time at home to bond with their kids. No, children are not a burden. We grow up fast, I’m leaving next year. This evening, I cooked nourishing recipes with my mom: a stirfry of garbanzo beans with cauliflower rice and kale seasoned with basil and thyme. The spices of life. Immunity. Together, we savored moments of laughter and deep conversations. And there is nothing you win in that. Love always wins.

So to that, Corona, what do you say? 

Sincerely, 

Sabrina Soffer

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