The Greater Good

Who would have thought that MASKS would become such a controversial topic! I personally have no problem wearing my mask whenever I am outside my home – I found one that is comfortable and easy to wash and I am quite used to it. But I do know that many in our country feel very differently. To some, individual freedom of choice is more important than what is good for all. I wonder when each of us should diminish what we want for the greater good?

I was reading about Norway and how their culture enabled a fantastic response to and control of COVID19. (I lived in Norway for 6 years and LOVE the country!) In Norway, there is a culture of collective good/action and was mobilized to combat COVID19. In Norwegian, the word, Dugnad, is a Norwegian cultural tradition where community members work together towards a common goal, for the greater good for all. Dugnad can be traced back to as early as the Viking Age, where villagers would work shoulder to shoulder to bring their ships on to land from the sea after excursions.

On March 12, Norwegians were called upon for a national dugnad. Only hours before the first official COVID19 death on Norwegian soil, the Prime Minister went on national television to remind Norwegians around the country the importance of bearing hardships together as a people: “It has now become absolutely crucial that all of the country’s citizens and residents participate in a national dugnad to slow down the spread. We are doing this in solidarity with the elderly, chronically ill, and others that are especially vulnerable in developing this serious disease. We have to protect ourselves in order to protect others. We will stand together through this period in time- not with hugs and handshakes- but by keeping our distance from one another. It will require a lot from each and every one of us. We need to care about one another and help each other the best we can. We have gotten ourselves through tough times before- I am absolutely certain that we will achieve this once again.”

Daily life came to an immediate halt as schools, offices, gyms, nursing homes, bars, restaurants, and all other public places nationwide were closed with a few hours’ notice. The official shutdown phase lasted nearly two months, with multiple briefings a week and encouragement from the government to keep up the conjoined efforts across the population.

And from May on, things started to resemble the normalcy of pre-COVID times as the shutdown was cautiously lifted bit by bit. Life has largely returned to “normal” – all because of the collective mobilized effort of all citizens of a nation.

I wonder how our lives in the US would be different we too, could declare a national dugnad, and all worked together for the greater good.

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