Two years ago, life was life. People went to work, children went to school. Folks went out to eat, attended sporting events and concerts, and traveled.
Two and a half months into 2020, the main news story was the presidential campaign between Trump and the crowd of Democratic candidates who were running against him.
Otherwise, life was humming normally.
Then, life stopped.
People didn’t go into the office, children stayed home from school. Restaurants closed, athletes played games without fans. Technology through streaming entertainment and Zoom sessions was all that connected us to the outside world.
The world was hunkered down inside because an invisible intruder was right outside our front doors. Covid-19.
By the time February 2022 rolled in, finally people started to feel more normal. The majority of us were vaccinated and we all grew to accept that Covid would be part of our lives though in a less lethal way. Going outside our homes and back into our normal routines without masks and gloves were not going to kill us.
Sure, consumer goods now cost more money and many items such as car parts and furniture are still taking much longer to arrive, but kids are back in school and many people have returned to their offices.
Then just as the world was regaining its footing, normalcy stopped again a few weeks ago when Russia invaded Ukraine, a massive war effort that had not been seen since the end of World War II. Suddenly, world peace was shattered and the threat of World War III has re-appeared.
Those of us 77 years old and younger have been very lucky to have lived during a time in human history when war on this scale was nonexistent. Oh sure, the fear of nuclear war hung in the air during the Cold War. And the Korean, Vietnam and middle east wars happened, but they paled in comparison to a world war.
But what we are witnessing in Europe, an aggressive Russia blindly invading another country, is disturbing.
Just when the nearly two-year feeling of unsettledness began to dissipate, the world seems shaky once again. It is one thing to fear a despot like North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un; quite another when it is Putin who has tanks rolling down city streets, bombing apartment buildings and hospitals.
Why does the world have villains like Putin?
One hopeful thing to keep in mind is this. No matter the challenges that have faced humans during crises, people have gone on with their personal lives. They continue to graduate school, get married, have children and find enjoyment within their own small existence even if it seems the whole world around them is crumbling.
A word that is used too often these days but worth embracing is compartmentalization. Yes, people need to be informed what is going on in the world, but that doesn’t mean one’s own life needs to be consumed with those troubles. You have to put away in your mind war and climate change and all the inequities that exist in society and not have it negatively impact the joy you can find in living your life.
Each of us may be lucky enough to live 70, 80, 90 years on this earth. We can’t control 99.99% of what goes on during our lifespan. However, that other 00.01% is in our hands. It is that infinitesimal part where we build beautiful memories of friends and places, holidays and babies.
Yes, get involved with making the world a better place by donating time and/or money. But if each person only put forth the effort to live their lives with decency and dignity, that bright light will shine on others. Just look at the courage of the Ukrainian people, standing up to evil no matter how mighty Russia may be.
How lucky most of us are that we don’t have to wake up to bombs exploding, seeing our neighborhoods in pieces.
Somehow those people, many with young children, are continuing with their lives even if it means leaving their homeland and husbands behind, traveling on crowded train cars to Poland. They have learned the hard way that they must persevere, must find an existence for their children that is safe so that they will live a full life.
This is eerily reminiscent of what other Ukrainians had to do over 100 years ago when the Cossacks were murdering the Jewish people. My maternal grandparents grew up in Kiev, and despite losing loved ones, they made their own treacherous trek westwardly through Europe traveling on a crowded ship across the Atlantic Ocean to Ellis Island. They, too, had the survival skills to go someplace where their remaining children could live their lives in peace.
No matter what my problems may be in my life, they don’t compare to what horrors my grandparents witnessed.
If it wasn’t for their survival and perseverance, I would not be sitting here today writing about their story. In a way, my grandparents conquered the Russians without using any weapons. And so shall the Ukrainians.