In the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it has become evident that as members of humanity, we have to take care of each other. It is now blatantly obvious that we are interconnected.
“Baha’i teachings emphasize that we should move away from thinking only about ourselves or our families, and instead think of the well-being of all humankind”
As various governments and institutions of society respond, the social inequality afflicting humanity is being put in the spotlight. In mid-March, as the conversation about closing down public schools began, many of us in New York City began to worry about the kids who wouldn’t have food or stability at home due to poverty and the systemic neglect that has shaped their lives. As the coronavirus crisis unfolds, I have been thinking about housing instability and the homelessness that plagues my city. I have been thinking about how people in countries with less equipped healthcare systems will likely suffer more than more economically developed countries. And in the United States, experts say there will be a significant disparity in the quality and quantity of healthcare resources available.
The Baha’i teachings emphasize that we should move away from thinking only about ourselves or our families, and instead think of the well-being of all humankind:
Every imperfect soul is self-centred and thinketh only of his own good. But as his thoughts expand a little he will begin to think of the welfare and comfort of his family. If his ideas still more widen, his concern will be the felicity of his fellow citizens; and if still they widen, he will be thinking of the glory of his land and of his race. But when ideas and views reach the utmost degree of expansion and attain the stage of perfection, then will he be interested in the exaltation of humankind. He will then be the well-wisher of all men and the seeker of the weal and prosperity of all lands. This is indicative of perfection. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha
To find solutions, we have to learn to detach from the individualism and greed that have contributed to the way this virus impacts humanity. We can learn more from this moment than merely how to create isolation routines for our comfort. We can reflect on the way our society has operated — on how it does not promote sustainability, and how the severe gap between the rich and the poor has led to desperate circumstances for the historically oppressed among us. We can reflect on how, due to our economic system and materialism, we often feel that we cannot prioritize our health over a job. And, individualism has made is so that we often respond to a crisis by thinking only of what we experience.
“We have to take social distancing precautions with an awareness that even our smallest decision can have a significant impact on folks across the globe”
Rather than thinking of only ourselves, we can reflect on how this time can be used to still contribute to the good of those around us. We can look within and meditate on the barriers that get in the way of us being generous, conscientious, and loving to one another. As the Baha’i writings say:
Man is he who forgets his own interests for the sake of others. His own comfort he forfeits for the well-being of all. Nay, rather, his own life must he be willing to forfeit for the life of mankind. Such a man is the honor of the world of humanity. Such a man is the glory of the world of mankind. Such a man is the one who wins eternal bliss. Such a man is near to the threshold of God. Such a man is the very manifestation of eternal happiness. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity
In navigating the days to come, whatever they might look like, we can see that we have to think of others. We have to take social distancing precautions with an awareness that even our smallest decision can have a significant impact on folks across the globe. We can offer our time to comfort others and find new ways to alleviate others’ suffering. We can also practice a keen awareness of the complexity of humanity’s issues, and understand that even something as difficult as this has moral implications.
When we shift the way we move through the world, we change our culture. When we do this, we take a first step towards transforming the world.