A man at work died.
It was a few weeks ago.
I didn’t know him well. I’d met him. He’d worked there a long time. We’ve said “Hello” but not much more.
They spoke about him on a big conference call. They were kind. They talked about what a good worker he was. How he made the team better. How he was nice at work. That he did a good job on some projects.
They talked about this man, who lived a full life cut far too short, about him being an employee.
It made me sad.
Did he have a spouse? Children? Siblings? What made him happy? What made him laugh? What made him cry? Did he donate his time or money to anything? Who was he?
There’s a movie called St. Vincent. A man’s wife died.
“Sorry for your loss,” says a well-wisher.
“Never understood why people say that, ” he responded.
“They don’t know what else to say.”
“How about, ‘What was she like?’ ‘Do you miss her?’ What are you gonna do now?’”
We’ve lost 200k Americans because of a virus. We treat them as a statistic.
We’ve lost John Lewis, Carl Reiner, Little Richard, Kenny Rogers, Kobe Bryant, Regis Philbin, Naya Rivera, Irfan Khan, Ellis Marsalis.
We’ve lost Chadwick Boseman.
We’ve lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
And it’s easy to think about them as more statistics.
“Death comes in threes, you know.”
“2020 is the worst.”
It’s easy to think about them as for what they mean to us.
“RBG means the Supreme Court is now a battle.”
“Chadwick was awesome. I loved Black Panther.”
In America we fight wars to keep our economy going.
In America we allow guns to be concealed in case there’s a shoot-out.
In America we let kids get shot in school.
In America we let people die in a pandemic.
In America we treat death as a statistic.
I don’t have a pithy, clever ending here. I don’t have a fun summation that finalizes the point and drives home some larger meaning. I don’t have a recommendation on what to do next.
I’ve been grieving for months and, for most of that time, it’s felt like I was doing it alone.
Other people are having anxiety or anger or frustration or confusion. But the overwhelming sadness of watching a generation of leaders die, a generation of young people thrown to the wolves and a larger society relatively unbothered by it is incomprehensible.
They say “All Lives Matter”.
Let’s let just one life matter. Start caring about one single person who isn’t yourself. Please. Start there. Pretend the homeless guy isn’t a bus stop but an actual human being. Stop caring about whether or not that immigrant is a “productive member of society” bringing you some tax benefit or something. That’s a person who loves other people and deserves love. That’s enough.
Existing on this plane is hard.
Why do we make it so much harder?