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Changing the course

The most widely discussed topic from 2020 is the last subject many people want to hear about in 2021. With hopes of a recovery being pinned on vaccination, COVID-19 continues wreaking havoc throughout the globe. On February 11th of last year, the World Health Organization officially announced its name: “coronavirus disease,” abbreviating it with the capital letters COVID and the number 19 indicating the year the virus was discovered.

Undeniably, it has left an indelible scar on many across this planet. Among the wounds it forged include physical, economical, and emotional. It also exacerbated notions of divisive and vindictive ideals which were once harbored by extreme and privileged-thinking people.

Notwithstanding Nature’s dominant presence, we cannot blame her for the failings of humanity. The coronavirus did not impose them, it merely exposed and brought them to the surface. As an American, I can openly express how ashamed I am of this past Wednesday’s actions on display at the U.S Capitol building while the rest of the world watched. Thankfully, many world leaders condemned the events and stated this was not the behaviors of the Americans they know.

Although those appalling events left an indelible stain on the American legacy, I do believe there is hope. These wounds can be healed, and the mark left on its history can also inspire a new spirit of regeneration, equality, and unity.

To be fair, last Wednesday’s lawless actions are not unique to the U.S. Many countries have and continue to experience conflict and division, inspired by so-called leaders who put their own interests and legacy ahead of the greater good of those who chose them to lead. Yet no matter how poorly the examples are being set, it is not an excuse to embrace the inflammatory rhetoric or support ideologies which purposely prejudice those who look, think, or are different from you.

Going Viral

While COVID-19 has left its damaging mark, it’s time a new and highly different kind of virus permeate humankind. Let’s name it “COVID-21+” but this time the letters will stand for: Caring, Openness, Vulnerability, Integrity, and Decency in 2021. The plus sign at the end is to make sure the positive attributes never stop. Let this virus be one with which everyone will crave to be infected.

Instead of debilitating symptoms, become infected with a positive outlook. Fight the urge to despise or hate those different from you and don’t jump on the bandwagon of degrading and shaming others. Finding fault in others is no skill, and sharpening one’s verbal acuity to cut deep, emotional wounds is an act to condemn and not covet.

The real strength is in standing up to malicious behavior and protecting those who are vulnerable and defenseless. There is strength in numbers, and the more people rising up against this vile behavior, the quicker it will be beaten into submission.

As humans, we let our emotions seize control of our actions, thoughts, and words. The group mentality only heightens this tendency more quickly. Resist the urge to get caught up in the heat of the moment especially when it leads to belittling and ridiculing behaviors. This kind of determination takes focused attention along with practice and a desire for fairness, equality, and justice.

It begins with an individual making a distinct choice to create a better world. But it cannot thrive without the intent of others. This is precisely why it needs to spread like a pandemic, first throughout your community and eventually escaping into the world at large. In truth, by committing to these 5-plus virtues, it creates a fertile and overflowing environment.

Caring. When we care for others, it encourages them to mirror and spread this behavior.

Openness. By being open, we are not confined to the limits of our own biases and favoritisms.

Vulnerability. Acknowledging and showing our faults develops strength of character.

Integrity. Your ability to choose the right thing especially when no one is watching.

Decency. A word often disregarded in a time when so many are only concerned with what they believe is due them.

Plus. Continue to add to these traits which benefit humankind; remembering the more you add to your personal example, the more this world becomes a better place.


All these 5-plus virtues can be practiced on ourselves as well as others. However, there is a hidden irony woven within. When we apply them to ourselves individually, they undoubtedly will conflict with others and possibly be deemed as selfish. But applying them to someone else – and especially to protect, encourage, or defend others – it strips away nearly every sign of selfishness and self-promotion.

Being an example filled with positive attributes does not excuse any wrong doings committed in the past. These 5-plus virtues depend on our acknowledging the past mistakes and a willingness to learn and grow from them. Admitting and accepting them is part of the healing process not only for ourselves but in a greater sense, it can help in the healing process of a family, community, and a nation.

Choose whom you wish to follow wisely. Though we may look to leaders to unite us and find solutions, ultimately we must also take responsibility for our choices and not solely blame them for the situations in which we find ourselves.

Freedom is defined and experienced in many forms. However, it also implies a responsibility beyond ourselves. If we choose to express it has the capacity to do whatever we want, when we want, and how we want, it no longer is freedom but anarchy. It is a complex dance of self-improvement and improving the world around you. It is accepting the path ahead of you which may not be how you planned it.

Let 2021 be the beginning of a new pandemic, COVID-21+ and become positively infected with creating a better world around you.

My thanks to Meriç Dağlı of Unsplash for the wonderful picture and I look forward to your thoughts.

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