To all the Members and Friends of the New York Society of Ethical Culture:
It seemed to be one day last week when most people suddenly got it. Although it was already clear to anyone watching the news that the virus was circulating and approaching, it wasn’t until last week (I would identify Thursday as the day it became so apparent) when the mass of people in our area recognized that this was going to affect us so powerfully. Promptly, store shelves emptied and the cancellations spiked. As I write this, I am home on a Sunday morning when I would ordinarily be at the Society, greeting newcomers, singing with the chorus and chatting with members.
Today’s Sunday Platform was cancelled. It was not appropriate to simply broadcast the program that was planned for the day. On the schedule was the Intergenerational Spring Festival – an interactive group activity for all to be led by the Young Ethical Explorers. Had there been a single speaker, we could have planned to put it online. In the coming weeks, we will plan for broadcasting the Platform, either by live-stream or some other fashion. That way, we can stay connected without jeopardizing people’s health. We will also carry on our committee meetings using networking applications like Zoom or Go-to-Meeting.
We recognize how important it is to support the program of social distancing and avoiding crowds and big gatherings. By that means we will more likely avoid a sudden flash of contagion where everyone contracts the virus at once, overwhelming health care resources. It is an instance of the herd, not having herd immunity, outsmarting the virus. Can we be so cooperative and collaborative in our actions that as a community of millions we can sidestep this dangerous infection? It is heartening to see how the society at large is modifying its behavior without, so far, requiring the compulsion we saw in China and Italy. While we have had many disappointments in the federal government’s response, it seems to be on track now and the state governments have been effective.
There is a gathering wartime atmosphere. But I am confident that we will find a way to bide our time through the crisis so the impact of the disease will be stretched out and greatly mitigated. Many of us will have a difficult time:
Those of us without regular incomes and those working freelance and for commissions. For them, a break in the income stream opens a critical vulnerability. We will have to support those in our community who may have trouble bridging the gap.
Those who find themselves stuck in isolation and in need of companionship or in need of supplies – you have to let us know and we will organize a means of reaching out. This is also an opportunity to exercise our community effectiveness.
There may be some among us who will become sick. Those affected will have to let us know what we can do to help them.
For all of us today, this is a novel challenge. None of us has experienced a pandemic. But we have lived through other deeply troubling times – including recessions, inflations, oil embargoes, and war. We have gotten through them all and we will outlast this challenge as well.
Our obligations are simple – we have to follow the prescriptions of the health care community – washing hands and keeping a distance. The virus does not seem to be that smart or devious. It is dangerous but predictable. Those among us in the health care community may be asked to do more. To you, we extend our deepest gratitude and wish you the protection of good health and endurance.
I am available to anyone who wishes to talk about their experience or their concerns. It does not have to be serious, but I am certainly here for you if it is serious. I will be at the Society from time to time this week. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my number at the Society is (212) 874-5210 x1119. A message will reach me.
I look forward to our prompt reunion.
Richard Koral, Leader
New York Society for Ethical Culture