July 9, 2020

The crushing guilt

There’s another epidemic going on while COVID-19 ravages the world. The epidemic of crushing guilt. Guilt for being healthy, guilt for being gainfully employed, guilt for having a pale skin color, guilt for generally being ok while so many others are struggling. It’s a really difficult emotion to deal with, because most times it leaves you feeling entirely helpless. If you look up the word ‘guilt’ on Wikipedia, the image associated with the article is titled Soul in Bondage. Yep. That just about sums up how I’ve been feeling lately.

My husband’s entire staff was laid off last week, while he survived the chopping block. Yes, he’s still employed and yes, he’s still bringing in a regular paycheck. But 68% of his fellow coworkers can no longer say that. How do you deal with the guilt of surviving layoffs? You can try to justify your existence, but in the end you wind up feeling responsible even though you played absolutely no role in the process.

Of course while his institution is making these cuts (and hundreds of other institutions and corporations like it), there are plenty of people at the top that are still making A LOT of money. Why is it that the cuts always happen from the bottom up? Why do the people that need the work the most end up being the ones to lose it? Are the Dean’s and Provosts, CEO’s and Presidents really immune to all of this crushing guilt? Or do they slap a severance package on it and somehow magically feel better?

But that’s not the end of the story, is it? After the severance is gone and the insurance coverage has expired, we are left with millions of people in search of work and affordable healthcare. Cue Soul Bondage image.

So what can we do? Part of this crushing guilt comes from inaction, or the feeling that we’re not doing enough to make things better for others. Sadly, one person can’t make things better for the entire world, but if all of us with the means to do something, did something, things would sure as heck be better than if we did nothing and felt guilty about it.

So, go bake some bread and give it to someone that’s hungry. Make dinner for a family in crisis. Use some of that government stimulus money to donate to a local organization that’s fighting the good fight. It doesn’t have to be an earth shattering, bank breaking, Superman gesture. Just do what you can. But do something. Because doing nothing guarantees that we’re in this apocalyptic, pandemic, guilt ridden world for eternity. And I don’t know about you, but I’d like to hug my friends and family again.

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