Over the past few weeks, multiple comparisons have been made about what our current predicament is like for our children. Some have said it’s like our children’s 9/11, meaning it’s the first time they’ve ever been faced with a real question about their personal collective safety and the first time that the pain of significant loss has really hit home.
Of course this is not true for all of our children, but for many it’s the first time that the very things they’ve been able to count on, like school, shul, soccer and basketball practice, graduation, bar and bat mitzvahs, even meeting up on Shabbat with a friend, have been canceled. It gives new meaning to the social media phrase “cancel culture.”
But in some ways, sitting in our houses, aware and fearful of an unseen, invisible enemy—and without a clear idea of when it will end—we have to admit that it may be even more difficult to deal with than 9/11. Every person in our community, from age 2 to 102, has had to make significant changes to the practical ways they conduct their lives. Much of what we have relied on in our daily lives has changed; some things are completely new experiences, like food insecurity, or a sudden layoff. But we hope these things we count on will return. The love and care we have for each other, and the strength that one human can give another, definitely remains.
We are blessed by the strength of those around us, and we need to take strength from others who are strong. We realize we need to break down the walls that, ironically, our devices have created—by reaching out more, on the same devices—picking up the phone as a lifeline to check in on our friends and family, and even teach our young children how to use the phone to call their friends, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and others. We are teaching our children how to be appropriate on the phone, and how to stay safe. Who would have ever imagined we would have to give crash courses in video conference etiquette for our elementary school children?
But how many times this past year have we texted each other instead of called? When it’s taken less time to dash off an email than to make an in-person coffee date? Now, I’ve been grateful to Hashem when a friend from Israel and a friend from London, actually dialed the phone this week (actually, who I am kidding? They clicked the video call link from Facebook—but you get my point).
The advice of our rabbanim and therapists is to validate the fears of our children, and welcome their questions and conversations. There’s no wrong way for them to process the experience, and their very real grieving for the loss of their social lives is something we can help them work through. We can use all the resources we have at our disposal, and there are more than we think. We can contact those who we know our children love, and be together virtually.
We have to tell them this will end, even if we don’t know when. We can tell them that they are safe, even if we have a new reality. We pray that this is true for all of us, and that we will all emerge from this trouble healthy and whole.
Even as we worry about our children and everyone in our community, we are also asking Hashem to have mercy on our cholim. Many are sharing lists of cholim; we have one in the beginning stages available on page 35. We hope these lists get smaller as our friends and family members recover, but we will work to keep it updated.
Please email [email protected] to add a name. Let’s share these names with our children, and ask them to daven for the refuah of those who are ill. For all of us, children and adults, taking ourselves out of our daily worries and anxieties, and focusing our prayers on those who need them most, is key to helping us get through.