When the bombs started falling on Sumy, Ukraine, I asked my second cousin there how her and her family were doing. She told me that they spent the night in a basement (not a comfortable one you might see in the US but a cold and unfinished one) and then went to the grocery store to buy food. I was taken aback. Grocery stores open in the middle of a war? But my next thought was, “Of course, how else can you distribute food to more than 200,000 people?” Basic services need to continue to function for people to survive. Grocery store workers hide out in basements at night too but then go to work in the morning. Food deliveries must happen. Bread must be baked. People who work at power plants and hospitals go to work because people need electricity and sick people need doctors and nurses. Even in war, the everyday must continue to function.
In a way, all these workers are heroes, showing up and doing their job in the middle of a war. But they probably don’t think of themselves as such. Each of them is just one person in the middle of a war that is affecting millions of people, a war that no ordinary person can stop or even meaningfully slow down. Whether they show up to work or not, the war will go on. But they show up anyway. And the fact that thousands of such workers across Ukraine are doing the same allows most Ukrainian cities to keep functioning, allows the lights to stay on, allows people to buy food, and so on.
We must think of ourselves as these workers (but also feel grateful that we are actually not facing the same conditions as them). None of us individually can stop this war. But if we collectively keep showing up for Ukraine, steadily, every day, we can accomplish a lot. We can make our leaders give Ukraine more weapons, more aid, more everything. We can make governments put even more pressure on the Russian regime. We can help the millions of refugees regain some sense of normalcy and comfort. We can help the millions more who are staying behind. We can do our part in helping the world weather the impacts of the sanctions already in place, which will have effects on food and commodity markets worldwide. Individually, we can do little. But collectively, we are a force to be reckoned with.
The war is in its fourth week now, and that may feel like an eternity. Allow me to remind you, however, that Hitler had huge successes in the first few YEARS of World War II. Defeating him took years as well. Do not be dismayed by the fact that the sanctions and military aid to Ukraine haven’t stopped Russia yet. Don’t take this as a signal that you should throw up your hands and ignore this war. Instead, keep up your efforts or do more, whatever is sustainable for you.
Will there be a ceasefire in the next week or two? Maybe. But either way, the response to Russian aggression will be a marathon. Your part in it may not be large, but if we all play ours well, good will prevail.