I can’t think of a more ironic situation for World Health Day. While I try my best to avoid spiraling down into the rabbit hole of anxiety and fear over the state of our current circumstances, even I find myself tracking the daily number of coronavirus cases worldwide. World health day was created by the World Health Organization in 1950 to create awareness for global health. 2020 is the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, and WHO this year is using World Health Day to highlight the critical role that nurses and midwives play on the front lines of healthcare.
As someone who has benefited greatly from the services of both of these healthcare professionals, I celebrate with the WHO in acknowledging the sacrifices of these women and men who are called to serve at such a capacity. From within the confines of a childhood cancer unit, I witnessed first hand how these people had answered a calling to be there. It was more than a “job”. It was their contribution to humanity. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we have all seen, heard, or read the media reports about our nurses and healthcare workers on the front lines. They deserve accolades; they are today’s heroes.
Speaking of contributing to humanity, here is something we know this world health day: we are better together. We are a social species. Moving forward, emerging from this global pandemic, my hope for humanity is that we will honor the value we have in each other: our schools, our churches, our neighbors, our meet-up groups and community gatherings. We will support our local businesses. To live without the social pillars in our lives causes us to remember who we are as a species. I have a faithful, inspired vision of humanity coming together over this.
Science is proving that we are better together. That without socialization, mortality from all illnesses rises. In order to improve as a species, we need to stop making our suffering about ourselves, and reach out the larger picture of humanity. We can heal our hearts by being in service to others. When we are adding to or contributing to the field around us, and adding meaning to others, this makes us more fulfilled. Inner contentment doesn’t come from the amount of money in our bank accounts or the size of our homes; it comes from the value we can add to others.
Former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy speaks openly about the mortality of loneliness. “Loneliness is more than a bad feeling; it has real consequences for our health,” Murthy stated in an interview in late March. He stated that the mortality impact of loneliness was similar to the mortality impact of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. And that it’s greater than the mortality impact of obesity or of sedentary living.
The impact of social isolation is being exaggerated right now. Where being out in public or at the grocery has lost an element of humanity. Where we shelter at home, taking on homeschooling our children and trying to stay positive and endure these extreme circumstances. We are like puppies at the pound; housed in separate cages, isolated from a normal, socially integrated life. Just like pound puppies, we are awaiting our forever homes: with each other.
I hold space for us to celebrate and hold sacred us being together as a society again, in the unknown future. May you each be well, and celebrate what you are grateful for on this World Health Day. It’s becoming cliché to say, but we are all in this together.