How to Rebuild When It Feels Impossible


tangle of blackberry vines

I’m stuck at home so I’m tackling the invasive species that is taking over the lower part of our yard: blackberries! This time it’s the mother lode—a patch that’s been growing wild for 30 years or more. It feels like it’s half an acre of wild, tangled mess. Standing in front of a solid 8 foot high wall of thorny vines, it feels impossible.


But day after day, I deck out in gloves and a coat, grab my clippers and tackle the edge of the tangle. Pretty soon, I’ve cleared a couple of feet. Then a couple more. By chipping away at it, bit by bit, I’ve now cleared a hundred feet of fence that borders the neighbor’s horse pasture. Now I’m rounding the corner and will start freeing up the trees along the next fence.


Humanity’s Impossible Task

As a humanity, we’re facing an enormous challenge—rebuilding after the coronavirus pandemic. In Oregon alone, more than 300,000 people are out of work. We’ve created temporary relief measures, such as prohibiting evictions and not shutting off utilities for lack of payment. But people are still liable for these bills and may have no money for them. How do we make sure hundreds of thousands of people are able to stay in their homes? And have enough to eat? How do we create new jobs for all the jobs that were lost? It feels impossible.


We’ve Already Begun

But look at all the impossible things we’ve accomplished just since January. We, as a global society, chose to stay in our homes to protect the most vulnerable among us. This is a selfless act on a global scale. Six months ago, could you even imagine that was possible?


“It’s only impossible if you stop to think about it.” ~ Pirates, Band of Misfits

By staying home, we have cleaned up our air and our water. You can actually see fish in the canals of Venice. Residents of Los Angeles are seeing the San Gabriel Mountains again. In Paris you can hear the birds sing because the noise pollution has been cut by 70%. We’ve been on a breakneck course toward climate disaster for a long time. Getting off that course felt impossible because there was no collective will to take the necessary action. Now we’ve seen what collective will actually looks like. Six months ago, would you have believed we could clean up the air in a matter of weeks?


The Black Plague claimed 100 million lives in the 14th century. To this day, monuments in cities and towns across Europe commemorate the losses of those dark days. The Plague spread because we’d become mobile, trading by ship across the seas. Today our world is many times more mobile and interconnected. And another infectious disease has spread quickly throughout the world. But our ability—and our willingness—to work together, to share information and to learn from each other is mitigating this current crisis. As we get better at these skills, we become more resilient as a global community.


Recovering and Rebuilding Even When It Feels Impossible

The next challenge before us is to recover and rebuild. It seems impossible when millions of us are out of work, with rent piling up and running out of money to buy food. But look at what we’ve discovered about ourselves in just the last few months:

  • We can take collective, global action for the benefit of others.

  • We can clean our environment.

  • We can communicate and collaborate on a global scale.

So we can tackle this next impossible crisis as well. We have the imagination, we have the skills, we have the resources. We also have the compassion and the collective will necessary to accomplish it. We have everything we need to rebuild our society better than it was before—a society that is just, sustainable, equitable and prosperous for everyone.

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