This was originally posted on Houston Chronicle.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, I’m sure of it.
That sentiment may seem a little optimistic given the dark reality so many Texans are facing as we hunker down in our homes, with businesses closed and paychecks dwindling or even disappearing. However, I am confident that this season of isolation will draw to a close and prove worthwhile if we sensibly move forward together.
On Friday, I was honored to be included in a strike force that Gov. Greg Abbott has charged with paving a path forward out of these dark economic times. It’s a remarkable assemblage of Texas talent with expertise in critical economic categories ranging from health care and manufacturing to retail sales and food service. My role on this all-star team is to serve as a conduit to my colleagues in the Texas House and their constituents, so we can find the most sensible way forward.
As this pathway takes shape, my confidence in our state’s ability to rebound is rooted in what I know about my fellow Texans. Since this crisis dawned, I have seen the vast majority of our state’s population do the right thing, adopting social distancing as a way of life and making sacrifices to slow the spread of this deadly disease. Granted, there will always be pockets of folks who think the rules don’t apply to them (folks who, sadly, tend to pay the price for their foolishness in the form of an infection or a loved one who suffers or dies), but the purposeful actions of most Texans in response to the restrictions have not only kept hospitals from overflowing, they’re causing the growth rate of infections to slow as well.
As the solutions and recommendations from the task force take shape, so will the role of each and every Texan, regardless of the county you call home or what profession feeds your family. Our role, individually, as families, as employees, as Texans, is to pay heed to the guidance of folks who are hammering out solutions that work, even as we continue practicing prudent lifestyle changes including hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing.
It’s also important that we check our hearts during this process and reflect upon our shared humanity. A friend once said that, if we could convert the anger on social media into electricity, we’d never need to build another power plant. Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t have tough conversations — energetic exchanges between informed, passionate people are essential to forging workable solutions — but we need to focus our energy and emotion on the actual challenge, not each other.
In the weeks and months to come, as we all face the challenges of emerging from this unprecedented time of trial, let’s add an extra measure of grace for one another. As we venture back out into the world, let’s not immediately judge one another on the decisions we’re making on how to best protect the health of our families. In the absence of a detailed playbook, everyone will be searching for the right balance, so hold off on the judgmental attacks and choose encouragement instead.
If this bizarre season in the history of our planet has taught us anything, it’s that we still need one another. The risks associated with contact mean we’re more reliant on each other than ever before. In a word, each of us needs to remember that the actions I choose today have consequences to those I interact with tomorrow.
Beyond personal relationships, a new mindset needs to extend into our business relationships as well. Consider extending respect to business owners who are working to adopt new routines to keep their customers and employees safe. Don’t forget those business owners whose establishments must remain closed until the threat of transmission subsides further and find ways support them in meaningful ways.
Someday, when we look back on this challenge, I am convinced we will tell a story of the unique resilience that is woven into the psyche of the average Texan. Our job right now is to continue writing that story together every single day, with every decision we make to remain informed, to stay home and to press on together. Our ancestors survived the Great Depression, world wars and pandemics with far fewer resources. We, too, can overcome, if we persevere and stick together, apart.
Bonnen is the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.