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This Terrible Gift

I just finished listening to NY Governor Cuomo’s comments about the increased social restrictions for the state of New York. While sobering, there was something quite remarkable that he shared and that I think speaks to something that resonates with all of us and illustrates an incredible opportunity in the midst of the difficult and challenging time.

He shared that due to the familial proximity of social distancing and “confinement” of home that he had certain deeper conversations with loved ones. He also spoke of it as being important to him and seeing real value in it. I couldn’t agree more.

I am incredibly fortunate to have a young man in my life that I refer to as, "The child of my heart." He wasn’t born to my family. He has a family, and a great one, but because of our interactions when he was considering medicine as a profession, I recognized many familiar qualities of his character and personality. As a result, our relationship has since continued as something far deeper and more profound. We talk a lot. We argue. He shares his thoughts and aspirations, and I see in him, a younger version of myself. I see a young man who comes from difficulty and struggle, who wants to contribute something valuable to the world, who has a voice and a spirit and who wants to be able to take real pride in his accomplishments. I see real character. He’s spiritually valuable to me. My wife and I love him dearly.

I am also incredibly proud of the fact that he has exhibited the sort of social responsibility and careful distancing that many of his generation are not. It is service to his fellow man. He feels, as I do, that the other negative behaviors are bewildering and depressing. He has led by example. He chose to socially isolate, and resisted the offers and encouragement of some of his peers to indulge in cavalier gatherings. It may not seem like much at face value, but he may well protect a lot of people in his family and community. I only hope others heed his example and follow suit.

Governor Cuomo described the circumstances of his deeper conversations as being a byproduct of the requirements of the pandemic. It’s a terrible time. There is no doubt about that. There will be darker days to come. Now, perhaps more than ever we will find the ability to talk with each other about the things that really matter. Perhaps now we will also be compelled, by the circumstances, to listen.

We will be a changed people on the other side of this trial. At least most of us will be. How we use this time, how we react, and how we look to our own values and priorities will determine if the change will be for the better.

I am generally a pessimist when it comes to "people", but I am forever an optimist when it comes to the individual person.  So let me make this appeal, from one person to another, let’s use this terrible situation wisely, and hopefully it will, in some respects, be seen in retrospect as a terrible gift.

Matthew Minson, MD is a physician and has served as a senior health official at the local, state and federal level. He is the author of a series of books championing individual health and social advocacy published by Texas A&M University press and has been a contributor to C-Span, NPR, and PBS. His website is


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