I would like to be alive to witness the day when, during another monotonous Tuesday history class, your school teacher pores through a textbook and flips to the section on the COVID-19 pandemic of 2019-2020. Perhaps he or she will run his or her finger along the paragraphs, chuckling at some and then growing somber as they continue. And perhaps you will also stare at the words on the page, glancing at pictures of face masks and hospital beds until the school bell rings. You’ll pick up your backpack and run down the hallways and out of the building.
You’ll come back home, and your parents will ask you what you learned about in school. You’ll tell them, of course, and you’ll see something flicker across their faces before you all go back to eating your dinner. It’ll be just another day.
Maybe you’ll grow up remembering our world’s current crisis clearly, or maybe you’ll just remember snapshots and photo collages of blurry faces and muted colors. Maybe you won’t remember anything at all. You’ll try to visualize the world today through the words you pick up from books and movies and relatives’ anecdotes. Perhaps, the next day, your history teacher will take you on a field trip to a local museum for the class period. You’ll walk around the COVID-19 exhibit, gawking and giggling. Or, perhaps, your stomach will tighten and your heart will sink as you see the images and numbers that cling to the walls. (I hope that the former will suffice.)
And you’ll run around the tile floors until it's time to get back on the school bus and ride back home through the afternoon rain. And it’ll just be another day.
But I’m writing to tell you that for me and so many others, it isn’t just another day. It will be a day where our hope reaches another young person. No matter how much of today you will recall yourself, much of your knowledge of this pandemic will depend on what older generations, including mine, decide to leave behind. Your perspective will be shaped by what we share and preserve. So, here is what I want you to learn, remember, and never forget.
There has been courage. From emergency response workers to medical professionals, this pandemic has brought so many heroes to light. Maybe your parents spent this summer keeping grocery store shelves stocked. Your teachers had the courage to find a new way to learn online while they were students, and their teachers had the courage to find a new way to teach. So many have risked their lives to make our world a better place during this pandemic, and they deserve the utmost respect, gratitude, and honor.
There has been heartbreak. Behind each number in the death toll that flickers across our screens is a human heartbeat that echoed with dignity, pride, and joy. Each tragedy has had a ripple effect across our communities, and so many have experienced grief on a scale that no one should have to. Perhaps the numbers printed in your textbooks seem distant and mechanical, but you must recognize the value and potential of each human life and the sadness that has affected so many around the world.
There has been hope. Globally, we have seen people reaching for their goals and showing kindness and gratitude towards all people. We have seen people use their livelihoods and talents to bring joy to others. Free porch concerts have filled the streets with warmth, and the merry sound of clanging pots and pans has thanked modern-day heroes. Ultimately, we have seen an image of selflessness emerge from a sea of darkness.
Finally, there has been unity. This pandemic has taught the world the sheer importance of human connection and acceptance. So many people have joined together to make our dark times a bit brighter. And as we continue to search for lanterns of positivity and progress, that unity will only grow stronger.
So, that Thursday when your history teacher assigns you that essay on the COVID-19 pandemic, don’t just remember the battles — cherish the miracles as well. As you stare beyond the whiteboard and through the classroom windows at the pale clouds, remember that through deep sadness, we have found optimism. Remember that beyond division, we have found the seeds of unity. Remember that despite hardship, we have found hope.
Your generation will be the one to continue that hope onto the future. And with the positivity and unity (and textbook pages) that my generation passes onto you, I sincerely believe that you will make the world a more beautiful and meaningful place.