As I’ve listened to and spoken with hundreds of Ohioans this week, the one word that continually comes to mind is compassion.
It can be easy to pretend to have all the answers. It’s easy to make things black and white. It’s easy and popular to state opinions as if they’re unequivocal facts.
I’ve spent countless hours listening and attempting to help, comfort, and understand those who are struggling through this while coming up with a plan of action to reopen our state.
•I listened to a daughter who couldn’t be at the bedside of her mother as she died alone.
•I listened to a single mom who was laid off from her job, crying because she isn’t receiving unemployment and she doesn’t have food for her kids.
•I listened to an exhausted business owner telling me about having to close his doors and lay off his employees due to a restricted and destabilized economy.
•I listened to the pain of those dying in a nursing home alone.
•I listened as people with underlying illnesses explained to me the fear they felt when going out to get groceries.
•I have seen the death reports of those with underlying illnesses.
•I listened to the restaurant owner whose life savings was being drained away from having to close her doors. Tears streamed down as she said she might never reopen again.
•I listened to the heartbroken high-school senior as she tried to process missing out on the final moments of her senior year: prom, the spring sports season, and celebrating the last day of school.
I’ve listened and I’ve learned. It’s complex.
All of us are feeling, thinking, and struggling through things that we’ve never had to before.
All this listening and learning has showed me that we are in need of one thing in our community: compassion.
In this difficult time, we all need to show compassion, as we realize there’s no easy answer. It takes compassion and humility to realize that, while some might not think this is serious, for the grieving families who’ve lost loved ones, this is the worst tragedy that could happen.
It takes compassion and humility to realize that, for the single mother losing her job and the business owner losing his business, this is the worst tragedy that could happen.
We can hold both as tragedies without diminishing either’s pain. We can fight hard to reopen our state while still speaking in a way that is full of compassion and humility. The greatest leaders are ones who can stand strong in what they believe is right and true, understanding that people’s circumstances are different and their pain is real. We must have both action and compassion. We need truth spoken in love.
Let’s have compassion and extend it graciously. We’re living in extraordinary times – our lives, families, and communities can either be marked by humility and compassion, or anger and bitterness.
We all want to see lives saved, the economy open quickly, and freedom preserved.
So today, let’s move forward with compassion and humility as we forge through this new territory to quickly reopen the state of Ohio together.
-Jena Powell | State Rep., Ohio 80