The opening sentence of Dicken’s “A Tale of Two Cities” remains as prescient today as when it was first published in November 1859.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period …”
Ours is a world built upon hope, worry, triumph and tragedy.
We live in a world grappling with a pandemic, an alarming number of mass shootings, rising geopolitical tensions, war and a world of fear due to the specter of nuclear arms.
Through it all, we live our lives as if all is normal.
What is normal?
How do we go about living it?
As the collective “we” placed us in this situation, I offer a collective “we” recommendation to create a new normal. A safer, better normal works to remove threats: Togetherness.
During the early days of the pandemic, normal had stopped as we had known. Fear gripped many, denial others. Ultimately more than 1 million people in America would die. Everyone, anyone, was at risk.
While paying for groceries during the pandemic, my first conscious experience with togetherness occurred. I thought hope was what I sought, but it was something more tangible I later discovered.
It was togetherness, I found.
In the checkout lane at a local grocery, I heard the clerk state to the elderly woman in front of me,
“Sorry, ma’am. There is a limit on soup. Only two cans per person.”
Peering ahead into her grocery basket, I saw her entire purchase, six cans of chicken broth. Looking back up, my eyes met the clerks. The clerk was only doing her job, yet I felt compelled to speak.
“Ma’am, I’ll buy two soup cans for her.”
Then, a modestly dressed woman behind me said firmly, “Same here. I’ll buy the remaining two cans of soup.”
The elderly woman slowly turned and faced us.
“Thank you” in a raspy, whispered voice.
She smiled and nodded, a tear forming in the corner of each eye.
Overhearing our statements and seeing the woman’s empty shopping cart, people in the other checkout lanes began asking the woman what else she might need.
When she left the store, the woman had all the essentials she had needed, given cheerfully and generously from others’ carts.
This story is the parable of our times — of any time — as we are better and stronger together.
Togetherness isn’t a taught human value, yet it needs learning. Togetherness means we are not alone. From a religious viewpoint, togetherness ignites our soul with light for all to see.
Togetherness in a world of impending blackness symbolizes hope, keeping the darkness at bay. Without togetherness, our life’s structure becomes conflicted, breaks down and disappears.
Togetherness reminds us how much we need each other. It’s not necessarily about who we are or where we are located but about our willingness to live, work and play in harmony with one another.
We must interact with other people to understand and respect them. As a result, we are less likely to harm, fear, and ignore others. Our way of life, and our lives, may depend on it.
On the other hand, polarization, left or right, is self-serving.
Each of us is a fulcrum in creating togetherness. If our lives lack togetherness, we cannot share and nurture it in others.
So start by striking compromise, creating common ground to move and shift opinions. With togetherness, there isn’t a win or lose mentality. For if we cannot come together soon, we all will lose.
Yet if successful, we find the strength to overcome any challenge together.