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Centering the Margins: Lessons from the Pandemic – Part 10

This is Part 10 of a series – click here to read other Parts!

Touchstone 10

Reconnecting with THE MARGINS

The three years of the Pandemic Era have been hard on everyone. But it’s important for us to recognize they’re been particularly hard on particular people.


Folks belonging to several demographic categories – and in our own lives, folks we know personally – have been hit harder by the coronavirus and its repercussions. There are communities and individuals who’ve been disregarded, overlooked, and underestimated in the recovery efforts so far. Likewise, there are parts of our own lives and selves that have been neglected.

With the individual struggles we’ve each gone through during this time – sometimes just to get through the day – and the collective struggle we’ve been in – sometimes just to cope with the most obvious emergencies caused by COVID – certain people and certain parts of ourselves that have needed recognition have instead been pushed to the margins.

And now that we’re moving into the Recovery Era, it’s time to give attention where it’s due, bring the margins to the center of our awareness, and offer our compassion and camaraderie. This means doing some:

  1. Soul-searching – learning more about where the Pandemic Era has taken the steepest toll, and we can do about it – and

  2. Soul-serving – directing our Recovery Era efforts to those places.

Soul-Searching & Soul-Serving: Pandemic Era Disparities

On which populations has the Pandemic Era taken the steepest toll? And what can be done about it? What does it look like to direct our Recovery Era efforts there?

First, how do we assess how steep the toll has been?[1] A few measures of data from the years since 2020 stand out – we can look at disparities in:[2]

  1. COVID-related deaths: One reason to refer to these statistics is to inform us just how bad our Pandemic Era disparities are, according to our most heartbreaking metric. The other reason is that these numbers can help us recognize where we may need special space for grief and mourning.

  2. Lingering consequences for access to basic necessities: Ongoing caregiving, educational, and employment struggles; food, healthcare, and housing insecurity; etc.[3]

  3. Lingering consequences for mental health: Ongoing addiction, anxiety, depression, despair, grief, loneliness, stress, and rates of divorce, self-harm, suicide, etc.[4]

These data can guide us toward the issues on which we can concentrate our Recovery work.[5] Then there are the demographics of people that have been hit hardest by these issues.[6] A few of these stand out as well – we can look at disparities in terms of:

  1. Age – children, adolescents, and elders

  2. Class and socioeconomic status – people experiencing poverty, incarceration, and homelessness

  3. Disability status – people who need to interact with the medical system more often than the average person

  4. Ethnicity and race – people of color, and Black and Indigenous people

  5. Gender and sexuality – women, girls, and LGBTQI+ adults and youth

  6. Nationality – people in dire circumstances abroad and in migration

  7. Occupation – frontline or essential workers, and caregivers, including unpaid ones like parents

These data can tell us about the constituencies we should prioritize offering compassion and solidarity to.


It would be impossible to compile an exhaustive list of all the ways in which the pandemic has added to the marginalization of all these marginalized groups. Suffice it to say for now, the three issue categories above – COVID-related deaths, deprivation of basic necessities, and mental health struggles – have had an especially devastating impact on the above seven demographic categories. Despite the valiant efforts of researchers and journalists to collect data over the course of Pandemic Era, we have nothing remotely close to a synthesis: no accounting of all the many challenges the virus has posed, no proposal pinpointing where Recovery needs are most acute.[7] There are so many gaps in our understanding of what has happened and why, so many questions we may never fully answer and variables we may never fully tease out. We’ll be sorting through everything for years and decades to come.

In the meantime, the best we can do is simply highlight a few examples, hopefully sparking your imagination about where you can do some Soul-serving, taking action in your community.


Additionally, I believe it’s worth asking – is there anything that connects all our post-pandemic problems and their solutions together, so it doesn’t all feel so daunting and overwhelming?


I think there is. These are all problems of isolation – people are separated from what they need. And the thing that can connect them to what they need, is the greatest need of all: relationship. The Recovery Era needs connectors, people like you and me, to reach out and build relationships, build a full, broad-based support system. So that’s the lens through which I’ll offer ideas for Soul-service…


Age disparities – children, adolescents, and elders

We’ve discussed in previous Touchstones how damaging isolation is for human beings. This is especially true for people whose brains and bodies need extra attention for growth and for maintenance. During the pandemic years, our kids lost much of their social worlds and learning progress.[8,9] So did our seniors, many of whom additionally lost staggering numbers of their friends to the virus.[10]

These groups need to be enfolded into our circle of belonging once more. Now, you can:

  • Volunteer as a mentor, coach, or tutor for local kids

  • Volunteer at a senior center or long-term care facility

  • Get to know the stories of the people you meet there

  • Learn about and support relevant citizen advocacy and lobbying efforts

Class and socioeconomic status disparities – people experiencing poverty, incarceration, and homelessness

COVID-related illness, death, and other tragedies hit people on the socioeconomic margins with disproportionate force. And to make matters worse, there were barely any headlines about it. This just goes to show that few of us nurture connections with the folks in the most vulnerable kinds of situations.[11]

But we don’t have to live in such isolation from each other. Now, you can:

  • Volunteer your time, resources, and skills in mutual aid, a shelter, or a kitchen

  • Volunteer at a prison or a program that helps people with criminal records get back on their feet

  • Get to know the stories of the people you meet there

  • Learn about and support relevant citizen advocacy and lobbying efforts

Disability status disparities – people who need to interact with the medical system and caregivers more often than the average person

Millions of people count on the healthcare system and supportive relationships to ensure they can live and thrive. But the threat of the coronavirus made it much harder, sometimes even impossible, for many of these folks to access the services they need. Then, for those living in long-term care facilities, there was the heightened threat of infection and death by COVID.


We need not leave people with disabilities isolated – we can create a society that honors their lives and presence rather than ignoring them.[12] Now, you can:

  • Volunteer at a school or center that supports people with disabilities

  • Get to know the stories of the people you meet there

  • Learn about and support relevant citizen advocacy and lobbying efforts

Ethnicity and race disparities – people of color, and Black and Indigenous people

People in these communities are already underserved by the medical system, and yet are more likely to experience a medical emergency. Thus, as the virus both spread more quickly among them and also clogged up clinics, it precipitated an added health and health equity crisis. In addition, people of these communities were much more likely than white people to be laid off or take a pay cut during COVID, exacerbating financial stress; and students of color also suffered greater academic setbacks. Then appallingly, many people, giving into intolerance, used the fact that the virus originated in China as an excuse to persecute people of Chinese and Asian descent, leading to a rise in racist sentiment and hate crimes.[13]

In these ways and more, the Pandemic Era exposed the ongoing isolation imposed on various ethnic communities, as well as many of our other racial fault lines in America and internationally. The good news is that this also galvanized a movement of activists, led by people of color and Black and Indigenous people, to confront systemic racism more directly. We need to keep this momentum going, not letting it be a flash in the pan. Now, you can:

  • Attend a training or class on racial justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, or invite a trainer to host one for a community you’re part of

  • Get to know the stories of the people you meet there

  • Learn about and support relevant citizen advocacy and lobbying efforts

Gender and sexuality disparities – women, girls, and LGBTQI+ adults and youth

These populations are also underserved by the health system, and are more likely than men, boys, and straight people to need routine and interventional sexual and reproductive care. Consequently, COVID caused them outsized health strains too, as well as outsized financial strains. Worse, social restrictions keeping them at home increased the likelihood they’d be subject to domestic violence, and that they’d have to risk homelessness and other consequences to escape.[14] Further, the support networks away from home that help mitigate these problems were curtailed.

These and many more issues kept women, girls, and LGBTQI+ people in even more precarious situations than they were in before the Pandemic Era.[15,16] Now, you can:

  • Attend a training or class on gender and sexuality justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, or invite a trainer to host one for a community you’re part of

  • Get to know the stories of the people you meet there

  • Learn about and support relevant citizen advocacy and lobbying efforts

Nationality disparities – people in dire circumstances abroad and in migration

The U.S. as a country has experienced the highest total number of fatalities due to the coronavirus – over 1.1 million out of over 6.9 million worldwide.[17] But we aren’t at the top of the list in terms of most deaths relative to population size – Peru has had the highest number per million people, twice the rate of the U.S.[18] And though the collateral damage of the virus has been destructive in our homeland, that’s even more true in other places around the globe, many of which have had to cope with famines and other crises not found here.[19]

As the world’s biggest economy and foremost superpower, our country has the greatest capacity to help in the Recovery effort. It’s essential for us to consider how we can continue aiding people of other nations, as well as immigrants and refugees from them. And rather than just letting this be the job of government agencies and far-flung NGOs, every American can pitch in. Now, you can:

  • Volunteer your time, resources, and skills for an international aid organization

  • Get to know the stories of the people you meet there

  • Learn about and support relevant citizen advocacy and lobbying efforts

Occupation disparities – frontline and essential workers, and caregivers, including unpaid ones like parents

These folks have held the world together throughout the Pandemic Era, laboring with love and commitment every day. They’ve endured high COVID infection and mortality rates, severe burnout, PTSD, and other mental health crises. These hardships have fallen especially on the people of color who constitute a disproportionate number of essential frontline workers, adding to the challenges already noted above. And they’ve fallen on the women who make up the majority of employees in care-work (education, healthcare, etc.), as well as the majority of active parents and caregivers, again on top of everything else.[20,21,22,23]

After all of their valiant, underappreciated Soul-serving, it’s time these folks get the recognition, rest, and working conditions they’ve deserved and needed this whole time. Let’s offer them some Soul-service as a token of our gratitude. Now, you can:

  • Donate meals and money to workers and caregivers in your local area

  • Get to know the stories of the people you meet there

  • Learn about and support relevant citizen advocacy and lobbying efforts

These are just a few examples of what to watch for in the aftermath of COVID, and just a few of the ways we can extend compassion and solidarity to those who’ve been on the margins. May we prioritize these places that most need recovery as we advance into the Recovery Era.


Soul-Searching & Soul-Serving:

The Margins in Our Lives


Where has the Pandemic Era taken the steepest toll on people we know, and on ourselves? And what can we and they do about it? What does it look like to direct our Recovery Era efforts there?

Whether or not we personally know people from all the demographic categories above, we all know people who’ve been acutely or persistently affected by the pandemic and its collateral damage. Hopefully they’re getting the help they need, but if not, they may be someone who could use your compassion and camaraderie, for whom we can do some Soul-serving.

  • Who are these people in your life?

  • What are they struggling with?

  • What’s helping or could help with that? These could be solutions identified above, or something you do for them or invite them into. Who else can help?

  • What’s been neglected that would enliven them again?

And whether or not you personally fall into one of the demographic categories above, whether or not you especially continue to struggle in the aftermath of the pandemic, there very well may be an important part of your life that’s been pushed to the margins. In my work and conversations since 2020, a common theme I’ve noticed is the need to reignite passion, that zest for life, again. For many of us, the pandemic has been draining on our ability to be as playful and creative and active as we want to be in our lives, sapped us of an animating sense of meaning in our work. In most cases, we’ve just been getting by these last few years, trying to hold onto what energy we have, trying not to stall out. With everything so uncertain, it’s been hard to muster an awareness of possibility in our work, education, recreation, and relationships. With our worlds feeling smaller than we’re used to, it’s been tough to remember life can be an adventure.

COVID has clipped many people’s wings. But our wings can heal, and we can spread them again. You too deserve compassion and camaraderie, including from yourself.

  • What are you struggling with?

  • What’s helping or could help with that? These could be solutions identified above, or something else entirely. Who else can help?

  • What’s been neglected that would enliven you again?

If you’re seeking to ignite more passion in your life, I’ve found that chances are, engaging in some form of Soul-service might be just what does the trick. And if you feel you have little to give, I’d say you’re severely underestimating yourself. Just about every kind of volunteering, activism, and mentorship is sorely needed, and is as deeply appreciated as it is gratifying. You’d be surprised how much good can come from you just showing up, and how much energy and satisfaction you’ll get from it in return.


Additionally, I encourage you to stay tuned for updates on my upcoming course, Soul Sagas: Finding Our True Callings in Our Life Stories. This class is all about discovering and following your deepest passions, which in itself is a form of Soul-service: We need people living lives of purpose and contribution, now more than ever.

I sincerely hope this and all the other Touchstones have helped as you search your own Soul. I hope they’ve helped you identify which parts of your experience from the Pandemic Era have been pushed to the sidelines, and helped you identify the same for others. And I sincerely hope these Lessons from the Pandemic have shown you how to bring those margins to the center of your attention, so you and those you love can truly find healing, catharsis, and support.


I hope my Recovery Era effort here has served your Soul, and that as you share it with others, it can serve many more Souls. I hope you go forth, Soul-serving everyone you can.



A Blessing


May you know my gratitude to you, for joining me on this journey.

May you face the uncertain future with resilient hope and steadfast courage. May you invite others to do the same.

May you enlist in the Greater Reengagement and Reimagination, in the Recovery Era, and in the Passionate Era beyond. May you invite others to do the same.

May you use what you’ve learned here as a Transitional Ceremony for yourself. May you help us move through our pain. May you invite others to do the same.

May you know comfort in your grief. May you know that those you’ve lost have not lost you. May you know the great gaze of love watches over you, always.

May you love this life with all that you have within you. And may life bless you with all its wild wonders.

Onward.

Works Cited, Further Reading
  1. CDC Covid Data tracker. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2023, February 23). https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home

  2. Covid-19 death data and resources - National Vital Statistics System. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2023, February 27). https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/covid-19.htm

  3. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, March 16). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on other health issues. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic_on_other_health_issues

  4. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, March 11). Mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_health_during_the_COVID-19_pandemic

  5. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, January 21). Social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_impact_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic

  6. The Covid Tracking Project. The COVID Tracking Project. https://covidtracking.com/

  7. Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, December 30). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic

  8. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, March 20). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic_on_children

  9. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, March 19). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education in the United States. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic_on_education_in_the_United_States

  10. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, February 26). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on long-term care facilities. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic_on_long-term_care_facilities

  11. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, February 19). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Prisons. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic_on_prisons

  12. Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, August 28). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with disabilities. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic_on_people_with_disabilities

  13. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, March 20). Racial disparities in the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racial_disparities_in_the_COVID-19_pandemic_in_the_United_States

  14. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, March 11). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on domestic violence. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic_on_domestic_violence

  15. Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, December 4). Gendered impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gendered_impact_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic

  16. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, January 22). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the LGBT Community. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic_on_the_LGBT_community

  17. Wikimedia Foundation. (2021, June 26). File:cumulative confirmed covid-19 deaths, owid.svg. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cumulative_confirmed_COVID-19_deaths,_OWID.svg

  18. Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, October 22). Covid-19 pandemic death rates by country. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic_death_rates_by_country

  19. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, March 12). Food security during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_security_during_the_COVID-19_pandemic

  20. Monte, L. M., & Laughlin, L. (2022, April 6). Effects of 2020 census-based population controls on 2020 income ... Social, Economic & Housing Statistics Division. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/working-papers/2022/demo/sehsd-wp2022-14.pdf

  21. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, January 30). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Healthcare Workers. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic_on_healthcare_workers

  22. Wang, W. (2014, April 18). On weekends, dads find more time for leisure than moms. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/18/on-weekends-dads-find-more-time-for-leisure-than-moms/

  23. Caregiving in the US. The National Alliance for Caregiving. (2023). https://www.caregiving.org/research/caregiving-in-the-us/

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