It is incredible how much can change in a small amount of time. I have been silent for a few months, absorbed with college, not finding a time to sit down and write between sports, school, work, clubs, and social life. Yet, suddenly, one day, an email took it all away. Now I am not distracted. Yes, I still have a ton of homework. Yes, I use my phone to stay connected to people. However, I am finding myself having a chance to take a breath, to get a decent amount of sleep. Are you in this same position? Or are you one of the brave men and women who are essential to keeping this broken society running? Either way, I want to tell you a story.
Before this virus became the threat that we face today in the United States, it was more of a tidal wave. The water receded, and we knew something was coming, but we couldn’t see it yet or imagine the damage it could cause when it hit. At the beginning of March, the virus that continues to threaten our country was not on my mind yet; what was on my mind was spring break. Before you place me in the category of how my generation is selfish, I went on spring break before we knew how big of a threat coronavirus was going to be. I was excited about spring break because one of my roommates and I went to New York City. When we went, we had a great time, but it was day by day that our world slowly began to change.
The first thing that I remember reading was that Tom Hanks had coronavirus. I thought that was crazy. Then another day, the NBA shut down. That is when I knew things were getting serious. Then Broadway shut down. My roommate and I had seen the last live performance of The Lion King before it shut down. Then Friday came of that fateful week, and we got the email that our school shut down. My world changed that day. On Friday, my college experience had come to a sudden and unexpected end. Sure, we were going online, but I was a senior, my time was over. I felt like I had been suddenly thrust into adulthood; yet, I was supposed to have two more months of school. An invisible pathogen had ended that. I was in shock and denial. At that point in time, we knew the virus was going to be serious, but we had no idea how serious it was going to become.
It is in times like this that we begin to see the best and the worst of humanity. In an elevator in the Empire State Building, I saw a new form of love. There were 5 of us who got into the elevator, and this was before social distancing was a thing. As Americans were buying toilet paper and cleaning products, a stranger in that elevator offered everybody a squirt of his travel-sized hand sanitizer. As we all rubbed our hands with the virus killing substance, I was awestruck the connection one small act can make. That no matter what happens, and things are going to get worse before they get better, that there is kindness in humanity. In 2016, I was one of three people to give a graduation speech at my commencement ceremony. Amid the uncertainty of the future, and with my college commencement now online, I reflect back to 2016. When I spoke to my classmates, I had one specific message for them: be kind. No matter what happens in our lives, in the good and bad, even a small act of kindness can change a life.
In a season such as this, I am expanding that message to everyone. I may not be on stage, saying those two words. I am not wearing the robes of my school, I will not get to shake my presidents’ hand when I accept my diploma, and I will not have an audience. But I will say this: be kind. Kindness is the light that shone in Jesus’s eyes, and it is a light that expands across race, religion, and culture. As a world, we are one. Be kind, stay home, change lives.
-Jessica L. Bishop