In Their Own Words

The pandemic didn’t pit young versus old – people did

One of my favorite memories of the pandemic was walking through empty streets with my maternal grandmother. She did not wish to remain at home, nor did I. During those walks, the criminal was not my recklessness, and the victim was not her fragility. We were, then, accomplices.

I believe the worst outcome of pandemic policymaking and of the way the media and social gossip framed it is the falsely emerging rivalry between young and old. If we defined social distancing and went out, we were perceived as insensitive to our grandparents back home. What the megaphones of culture mistook for an irreconcilable difference between generations was a similarity split and squashed, an alliance between two ends of the age spectrum that perhaps the people in the middle unwittingly sabotaged.

No one bothered surveying the topic – let our statisticians run wild! Let them ask the old: they will be met with the same indulging attitude that we know grandmothers shower on children. It does not matter who broke the vase. As long as there is someone here to break it.

My paternal grandmother once surprised me with a statement: “I’ve never seen a year like 2020!” – and she had lived through 15 years of civil war back in Beirut, Lebanon. I could only wonder: How could not one of these 15 years rival 2020? I did not need to inquire further: because the old and the young think alike, because our happiness is woven with the same thread.

Let our politicians and media executives mend that thread! Beware of the culture that drives a wedge between the young and the old, a relationship that requires a delicate gap, a conscientious messenger. Sometimes, before the pandemic when cinemas were still open, I remember sharing popcorn with my grandmother. I will never forget the singular effect that box of popcorn alone could produce: a bridge between past and future, a helping hand to whatever remained incommunicable between us. Though I sensed the depth of the gap between us, I understood how it can be filled. As easily as popcorn!

COVID-19 stamped a cultural fallacy: distance between young and old. We forgot the pandemic dealt with a virus that revealed our interdependence. How inconsiderate, the public service announcement that declared: “Do it for Grandma!” Must we be reminded what we owe our grandmothers?

A pledge is far stronger when made in secret – and so is love.

The comments section is closed.


Rayyan Dabbous

University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario

Republish this article

Republish this article on your website under the creative commons licence.

Learn more