When was the last time you went on a leisurely road trip to the countryside? If you were lucky enough, it may have been as little as just a few weeks ago before the COVID-19 pandemic forced us all to stay at home.
Living day to day under the looming threat of an unseen enemy is certainly taking its toll on us all. Even the most mundane decisions, things we would normally take for granted without a second thought—driving to the mall or car pooling to work—now brings with it a sense of heaviness at the need to be carefully deliberate about every little thing we do.
Rolling Stone Magazine’s Elizabeth Yuko lamented this “moral fatigue” as well as the collective burnout that we’ve all experienced in so short a time. “The past few weeks of seismic shifts have made us readjust in ways most of us never imagined,” she writes. “And as of right now, we don’t have a clear end point to this new way of life.”
It’s just natural that we’re all on the lookout for ourselves, especially in these uncertain times. Thanks to the requirement of social distancing and quarantine measures, we now have to always be wary of the people we interact with and the things we touch—even in the relative safety of our own homes.
But one of the most compelling aspects of our current state of affairs is that we’re all alone together. It’s a concept that’s already well-known to drivers: defensive driving. By looking out for yourself on the road, being both careful and mindful of your behavior by anticipating risks and making well-informed decisions, you’re actually making the road safer for others as well. And the more people who adopt this safety behavior, the safer the roads get.
In other words, by looking out for yourself, you also look out for everyone.
In the same vein, by being extra careful that you don’t get any germs into your system, you not only keep yourself healthy but you also help stop the virus from spreading to your loved ones and to other people.
You can take this attitude one step further, by imagining yourself as a possible carrier of the virus and behaving in a way that keeps the people around you from getting infected. It’s a very selfless act.
CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, summed up and underscored the value of this selfless behavior well: “Act as if you’re carrying the virus.” He advises minimizing contact with other people, especially those who are most vulnerable—the elderly and those with weak immune systems. He also said that we should be aware of the things we touch and use, mindful about others who will touch and use them too.
“It’s within all of us: How I behave affects your health… How you behave affects my health. Never have we been so dependent on each other, “ Dr. Gupta explained. Rarely are there such opportunities for empathy and self-reflection. The knowledge that we are all going through similar hardships allows us to better understand what the people around us are going through.
It’s the paradox of our time, that the one thing we all seem to share right now is a sense of distance from the rest of the world. Alone, together we stand; alone together, we stand.
We are, to each other, a source of strength on the long road ahead.