We all know the Chinese proverb: May we live in interesting times. OK – done. ‘Interesting’ may be a more positive descriptor of these current times than most would use, but let’s give ourselves time to reflect on the idea. Lord knows, most of us have some time right now (unless you are working in the health care delivery system or the crisis response teams of government at any level: you have my gratitude and prayers for safety). For the rest of us, we find ourselves with time we didn’t ask for, opportunity to reflect on something most of us couldn’t have imagined, and new challenges to our creativity, our resourcefulness and our resiliency. Sounds very interesting to me, frankly.

But no doubt, we are being challenged to think differently: about our schedules, our choices, our tolerance for risk. And about our sense of shared fate. At a time when much has been written and said about the increasing polarization of life on our planet, we are being reminded of some fundamental truths in our shared humanity. As musical talent Five for Fighting put it so well: “think about it, man, you know we’ve got it all…we’re all we’ve got on this bouncing ball.”

We DO have it all: for those of us experiencing this pandemic in any developed country, the lock-downs and closures shine a bright light on how many freedoms and liberties we have come to take for granted. And we ARE all we’ve got on this bouncing ball: the ingenuity of human beings are what created the extraordinary quality of life we experience, and it is going to take a good quantity of that same ingenuity to help us regain the quality and security of our lives again.

As I observe public leaders call on us to sacrifice for each other, and hear private sector leaders ask for help but also pledge to do what they can, I am struck by a very interesting possibility: can we innovate our way out of this in a manner that helps restore some of our lost connective tissue? Can we reverse any of the polarization that so recently seemed unstoppable? I certainly don’t know, but I will stand up for and with any leaders who want to give that a try.

The initial steps shouldn’t be that hard: if we need to sacrifice some of our independence (or our convenience or our financial resources) to safeguard our parents and grandparents, I believe we will. How about safeguarding our friends’ parents? How about the parents and grandparents of everyone we know? How about the elders in communities around the world? See how that could work?

And as the most brilliant and innovative among us create treatments and inoculations to fight this virus, we have the opportunity to celebrate those achievements, but also to ensure that the benefits (economic and social) of those accomplishments are spread more broadly than we saw, for instance, in the recovery from the Great Recession. When public funding creates the potential for recovery, the public itself deserves to realize the benefits. And it is already clear that only the fast and decisive investments of the public sector around the world can achieve what we are all now working and praying to accomplish.

I was inspired to read the words of San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo in a story about their decision to order ‘shelter in place’ for a seven-county area in northern California this week: “It is a mandate of common sense. We need everyone to recognize that it’s in our collective best interest to stay home, for all but the most essential of activities.”

Common sense. We can help each other get to that, right?

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Here are a few articles that we consider required reading today.

  • Confirmed Coronavirus Cases In The U.S. Near 10,000, NPR
    The United States approaches a grim milestone in the fight against the coronavirus with the number of confirmed cases closing in on the 10,000 mark. This morning, officials reported over 9,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and some 150 deaths.
  • U.S. virus plan anticipates 18-month pandemic and widespread shortages, Star Tribune
    The U.S. government plan to combat the effects of COVID-19 warned policymakers last week that a pandemic “will last 18 months or longer” and could include “multiple waves,” which would lead to widespread shortages that would put strain on consumers and the our health care system.
  • Gov. Tim Walz: Minnesota should see COVID-19 as winter, not a blizzard, Star Tribune
    Minnesota authorities disclosed on Wednesday that a total of 77 confirmed cases spanned across 16 counties and affected 13 health care workers, nine school workers, one school-age individual and one state legislative staffer. Gov. Tim Walz said Minnesotans should expect the battle against the virus to be “not a blizzard, but a winter.”
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