“While we trust science and do our part to support the fight against COVID-19, I encourage you to remember that it only takes a small amount of light to break through darkness.” 

If there were ever a time where we are reminded of how interconnected we all are, it is now.

The COVID-19 outbreak has shown us that a single action today has a powerful domino effect that WILL either benefit or harm another. 

While fear and tension linger densely in the air, this pandemic has also shown us the strength of humanity. It has made us feel vulnerable in its wake, and perhaps awakened us to the realities we otherwise avoid. This time, while frustrating and deeply upsetting, has on a macro and micro level asked people globally to go within. With the distractions around us limited, there is this initial stillness that can be unbearable at first. Many of us are not used to such a stillness, especially when it’s not conveniently planned as a retreat or vacation getaway. 

After that stillness, I’ve noticed there seems to be an upheaval. 

On the macro level, the reality kicks in. For many, this ushers a time of proactive response. We have seen this in the everyday superheroes working in hospitals, stocking shelves, educating children online, WFH to keep the economy going, cleaning public spaces, creating artistic mediums for people to stay inspired, shifting company operations to produce needed supplies, innovating solutions to problems, staying home, and sharing mutual support.

On the micro level, the reality is less of a kick and more of a slow uneasiness culminating to a point of acceptance. Within this space, our emotions fluctuate between grasping to some normalcy and then the random pangs of realizing that life and its priorities have shifted. This vulnerability and confusion can make anyone feel defeated at first. Why? Because I have realized that life’s difficulties are not what disempower people. In fact, life’s difficulties become the ultimate catalyst for growth, accomplishment, and problem-solving. What cripples most people is the unknown, because we can accept the good and bad. But, we feel a loss of control when we are suspended in the unknown. 

I am not an expert with all the answers. Far from it. But, as someone who has experienced her fair share of existential mind benders, I can say one thing with absolute confidence: the unknown is always where the possibilities are. Anytime you have too fixed of an idea about something, you limit its ability to evolve and unfold. 

How does this relate to COVID-19 now? Well, clearly we do not want this virus to evolve. We don’t want tragedy to unfold. That’s not what I’m talking about. 

The possibilities I speak of now are the opportunities we all have at this very moment to make a difference ––a difference in our own lives, a difference in the lives of others, and a difference in the world. In the midst of adversity, you will inevitably find those that pull back. Yet, you will always find those that rise up and lean into the messy, chaotic, and beautiful experience we call living. 

How can you help? 

Stay home, but be present. Check up on friends and family. Check in with your friends on the frontline. Check in with yourself too, because you can’t uplift others if the weight is puling you down. 

Donate to organizations if you can, especially the smaller ones who are struggling. Support small businesses online. I know finances are tight, but we should circulate resources if we are able to. No contribution is too small.

Learn something. Create something. Do something new. Find inspiration in the ordinary. Stretch the imagination. You might find some hidden potential.

Most importantly, accept where you are, and give yourself permission to feel whatever comes up. I write this article a week after battling with these emotions myself. I kept reminding myself to be grateful, to have a higher perspective, to take action. Finally, I let myself just feel what I really needed to. To accept that this entire situation has made me feel sadness, frustration, and even helplessness on behalf of others. 

The amazing thing about that moment was that for the first time I didn’t judge myself for what I felt. I accepted it. And the moment I did, the weight suddenly lifted even though my reality had not changed. 

We cannot control life. COVID-19 is just one more confirmation that there are situations greater than us. But, I do not speak lightly when I say we always have choices. They may not always seem so clear, but they exist and are what ultimately shapes who we are. 

I ask you to support one another and to join me in taking it day-by-day. I ask you to accept your fear, but to choose courage despite it. I ask you to feel vulnerable, but to allow it to soften you rather than cripple. 

The unknown is where the possibilities are, remember? And while we trust science and do our part to support the fight against COVID-19, I encourage you to remember that it only takes a small amount of light to break through darkness. 

This, too, shall pass. We will soon gather with our loved ones, hug them, and really mean it. 

Elnaz Moghangard is raising money for the Refugee Women’s Network COVID-19 Response Fund on GoFundMe. Please consider making a donation to support refugee families at risk and in need of basic supplies.