As we all think about how to cautiously work our way back into our communities in responsible ways, we might find ourselves searching for permission or looking for a past experience to guide our thinking. This situation is so unique that I found that not so easy. I did, however, find one place that fit and I wanted to share my thoughts in case it would be helpful to you. 

When I was just out of graduate school I was put on a preventative medication following a surgery. The doctor informed me that there were health risks in taking it but his recommendation was that those risks were outweighed by the risk of not taking it.  

I was left with a difficult decision. I considered his expert advice and decided to take it.

My only request was that he stay involved in helping me assess those risks each year with testing and monitoring. Years later, I felt that the medication was no longer necessary and the risks were mitigated, so I asked that same doctor for his advice again and for help in weaning me off the meds safely. 

He agreed, it was a fair assessment. However, he said, I can’t take you off of it, that is too big of a liability, you will have to follow the guidelines and take the responsibility of doing that yourself.  

He added, I will give you the guidelines to taper you off but you will have to use your best judgement from there. Your main risk is driving since it could affect others. Therefore, to ensure your safety and the safety of other drivers – pay particular attention to how you feel before getting in a car and limit your driving for a while.

Knowing that my personal desire to be off this medication could have safety implications for others, I knew I had to carefully follow his guidelines and take every precaution necessary. 

People have been doing this responsibly throughout time. It just makes sense.


We are all responsible and caring people in our communities. For the most part, the people we share experiences with have similar values and compassion for others.

During this pandemic we have all done a remarkable job locking down, minimizing unsafe behaviors and forming new habits to keep our families safe and to help minimize the spread of this virus.

In many ways these new habits have become a part of our integrity. 


Our health experts and community leaders face the greatest leadership challenge in the current crisis of striking the right balance between preventing not only the damage inflicted by Covid-19 but also that which comes from a severe contraction of economic activity.

As we thoughtfully integrate, we will most likely start by mixing with our friends who have been responsible, smart, and safe as well. As we do this we will know that each of us will now become responsible for our habits protecting those we connect with. 

 If we approach this process with the same care that we showed our own families then we undoubtedly can feel good about our part in keeping everyone safe and getting our community back on its feet. 

As we move beyond our family and friends and integrate with less known members in our communities, I am optimistic that we will reshape and reinforce our compassion for others and think of their safety. If that entails the inconvenience of putting on a mask in public, so be it.

When considering how each of us can help each other stay safe as we reintegrate, I am going to draw off of my former experience: follow the guidelines and take the responsibility of doing that yourselfI think that we all have that in us and the gift we will all share will be worth the extra effort.

Be Smart. Be Responsible. Think of Others. Enjoy What Comes.

Phil McCarthy

4 thoughts on “MAKING OUR WAY BACK”

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