The Merits of ‘Doing the Best We Can’

My time off last week was a staycation, a practical and safe way to spend down time during the pandemic.

I kept up with the news, but there were also opportunities to reconnect—phone calls, texts and emails with family and friends, opening Christmas cards and reading the annual updates from folks.

Some common themes emerged from these communications.

They lamented the impact of the virus on their lives, regretted whatever hardship it caused over the last year, but they also expressed gratitude for their blessings, celebrated the accomplishments of family members and hoped for a better 2021.

More than anything, I heard folks say, in one form or another, “We are doing the best we can.” That may not may not fit the narrative for motivational speakers, but it has a healthy, practical and forgiving ring to it.

And I thought it even inspirational.

Covering the pandemic as a talk show host has meant focusing on the particulars of the virus and its spread, the illnesses, hospitalizations, deaths and recoveries.  That story has included often heated debate over things like wearing masks, social distancing, the school map, unemployment, Covid relief funds, on and on.

News coverage migrates toward significant events and controversy. There simply is not much room or even desire to report on or opine about “doing the best we can.”

But in the day to day world, I suspect that is what most of us have been doing since last March, and we will have to continue to do it into 2021.

The phrase gives us some latitude.

“Doing the best” implies a drive toward perfection or at least excellence. It sets up a constant state of measurement where we are bound to come up short. Who can keep that up for the better part of a year?

But adding “we can” allows for weak moments, times when we did not wear our masks, attended a family gathering against the best advice or took an unnecessary trip just to get out of the house.

So, for most of us, our compliance has not been perfect, but we have tried, and will continue to try in the months ahead, waiting for our turn for the vaccine.

Brene Brown, author and research professor at the University of Houston, said when we assume that people are doing the best they can, “It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.”

I am returning from staycation more hopeful than when I left. My friends and family have, perhaps unintentionally, helped me to see our world in a more optimistic way.   When faced with adversity, we do the best we can.

And that’s good enough.







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