“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death.”
—Anne Frank

For most of my life, until two years ago, Anne’s quote were words I lived by. No matter how awful a situation I was in, or my loved ones were in, or our community or country was going through, I was always able to maintain hope in my fellow human beings.

And that hope continued for the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. People stayed home. Evening applause echoed throughout places like New York and Seattle to thank nurses, doctors, and first responders. Many of us left larger tips for those delivering food and groceries to our homes. We were concerned for each other’s health.

And then… somehow a virus killing millions of people became political. Nothing has been the same since.

As the pandemic has continued, our care, concern, and empathy for each other has deteriorated to the point that friendships have been lost, family members have stopped talking to each other, and those of us with any sort of autoimmune disease or immunosuppressed system due to cancer, an organ transplant, medications, etc. are still stuck at home in order to keep ourselves alive, as the rest of the country moves on as if the pandemic is behind us.

Anyone with any sort of disability needs to fend for themselves. Accessibility is limited. The philosophy of eugenics is no longer kept secret but spoken aloud in public with not an ounce of shame or guilt. So many have shared vocally (and on social media) statements to the tune of, “If they’re so worried, they just need to stay home. They can’t ruin moving forward for the rest of us.” I’m hearing a lot of hurtful things that I try not to take personally, but I can only have things bounce off of me for so long.

I’ve personally had to become more vocal about my invisible disabilities and autoimmune diseases, which I was able to hide quite well before the pandemic hit. I’ve had to advocate for myself in order to keep myself safe from COVID-19. If I don’t (and this is not hyperbole), and I catch COVID-19, I could become extremely ill or even die.

At this point in the pandemic, we either know someone who has lost a loved one, or we have personally lost a loved one due to COVID-19. Do people remember or recognize what the pain of grief feels like? I have so much doubt in us humans now, in our empathy, because I cannot understand how — after losing so many loved ones over the past two years — so many people are self-centered and not looking out for their fellow human beings.

Am I the odd one out, wondering why so many can’t empathize and love their fellow human beings? I hope I’m not. I don’t think I am. I was raised, as Atticus Finch says in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ….” When did we (the collective ‘we’) forget to do this? When did we become so selfish and self-centered? You never know what someone is dealing with emotionally, physically, health-wise, etc. And for some reason, those with the most toxic thoughts are being the loudest right now, not aware (or not caring) how their comments are affecting those of us who are still stuck at home and are trying our hardest to keep ourselves, our children, and our community safe and healthy.

As things change, please keep in mind that there are a lot of scared people out there that want to go back to normal but can’t yet. If someone does say something disrespectful or hurtful, if you feel brave enough, please try to have them rethink what they said, and maybe try to put some faces and names to what they’re talking about to make it more real.

And I hope that someday (hopefully sooner rather than later), I can believe in Anne Frank’s words once again.

Ellicia Elliott is a boy mom, theatre artist, educator, and the Artistic Director for The Rude Mechanicals.