The great COVID-19 lockdown seems like a lifetime ago following the last few weeks of civil strife in the U.S.

As America rips at the seams, it’s almost hard to remember the fear and anxiety we felt under the weight of the Coronavirus, as it held us hostage for most of the spring.

The racism that arose around the killing of George Floyd came so quickly on the heels of COVID-19, which took the lives of more than 400,000 men, women, and children around the globe, that it’s hard to make sense of the world right now.

In 2020, fear has been the greatest teacher.

I have never been more scared than I was in early March, driving to our cabin with a cough, heavy chest, and flu-like symptoms to start our 14-day quarantine. My fiancee, recently returned from abroad, had been exposed to COVID-19 by a colleague.

It was one of our quietest drives ever.

My mind swirled with countless outcomes:

  • Would my life as a father end before my son become a teenager?
  • Would I die before saying I do to my fiancee?
  • Would I be a widow before I was even married?

Those thoughts sowed confusion, but they also drove me to think about what really matters.

Turns out, I didn’t have COVID-19. But it was little solace as I was still wrapped in a heavy blanket of anxiety.

Trying to grasp what was really important to me meant reaching out to others, to learn from friends I respect and admire.

I wanted to know what they saw in themselves during COVID-19 as well as what they saw in others.

I’m sharing their words, which brought me comfort and helped me to realize I not alone.

Kim Baird, Indigenous leader and former chief of Tsawwassen First Nation. A friend of 30 years.

On the personal side, I learned I was exhausted and staying home really helped me to reset.  I learned that low-grade anxiety about my family (feeding and ensuring they stay safe and healthy) was energy-consuming and impacted my focus.  I learned that investing in a good chair is worth every penny.

I learned that juggling work, the household and homeschooling were stressful, but common experience for many, which I found comforting.

I learned that I’m not lonely because it became clear to me that some of my friends felt very isolated and lonely. I learned that mental health is fragile for a lot of people during the lockdown.

I learned that I have very many blessings in that I have a home and capacity to keep my kids safe and healthy.

I learned I have many friends – and people I haven’t heard from in a long time reached out to me to make sure I’m okay.

And I’m still learning – but I am grateful that COVID-19 provided me with a pause to reflect on priorities and deal with a bunch of stuff I’ve been avoiding.

Kim negotiated and implemented BC’s first urban modern treaty on April 3, 2009.

Kevin Vallely, author, and adventurer who holds the world record for fastest unsupported trek to the south pole. Friend of 10 years,

We grew up with very few luxuries. My parents came from Ireland to make a new life with no savings. We lived very humbly and made do when we had to. If you have a strong family bond you can always get through.

I enjoyed it when the pace settled down. COVID, in many ways, was a blessing for me.

I saw how people dealt with with the uncertainty, the personal responsibility and the threat brought on by COVID-19. It was eye-opening to see how it manifested differently in people, from indifference in some to balanced acceptance in others, to a complete paralysis for a few.

I learned a lot about people.

Kevin recently published his second book Wild Success, which parlays how his hard-earned wisdom can be applied to any business situation. 

 Sean Burke, student of people with a brilliant insight of world affairs. Friend of eight months,

I learned that I have a breaking point; that I need to take better care of myself; that I can’t keep on trying to get everything done as per normal.

I saw a lot of people going above and beyond to help others in the community. And reaching out to people to create a community where it didn’t exist prior to COVID.

Sean is the Overseas Program Director for HOPE International Development Agency.

I am sharing their words to help me make sense of my own COVID experience. There were days I felt utterly lost, overwhelmed by the daily death tolls that rolled in from across the globe.

It’s in those moments I reached out. I wasn’t alone. Fear and anxiety were companions for so many people and sharing those moments made it all seem just a little less daunting.

That’s where I discovered the resilience in myself and the patience for others.

COVID has changed us all. And it’s a change that has sparked greater change in the George Floyd movement.

Hopefully, we are all a little more understanding and a little more empathic to the pain and suffering of others.

It’s a lesson worth learning. And it can be as simple as asking those near and far, “how are you doing?”