As the global coronavirus pandemic puts countries on lockdown, life has become terrifying. But there are other forces that seem to intensify our fears, making many of us vulnerable to panic.
The panic is just as infectious, in the sense that our feelings may easily spread to other people, and soon all of us will become irrational.
You can see the panic in the faces of others when someone coughs, or in the eyes of people in the elevator who are just trying to avoid as much contact as possible. You can see them in the massive, disproportionate response of toilet paper hoarding. Furthermore, you can see all the fear unfold in increasingly erratic ways played out for you all over social media.
I have seen Facebook posts from people who voice their opinions about the global pandemic, which is fine. I can keep scrolling if I disagree. But what I cannot accept are posts from people who have been so condescending about how others are responding to the pandemic.
If I could speak to them in person, I would say something like this:
Your Facebook rants will not convince people to stay home. Everyone reacts to stressful situations differently. How you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in. You can still educate the “ignorant public” without being condescending. You must first start with compassion.
In leadership, you must act out of compassion in order for you to get others to do what you want them to do. In teaching, you must be able to offer support due to the troubling circumstances that many of your students face on a daily basis. Think about the “ignorant public” as your troubled students who need to be taught to change their behavior before learning anything else. At first, you might not be sure what difference you could make in this situation. However, over time, you learn to combat the panic and the ignorance that you see everyday by instilling love and compassion into their learning experience. Teach by example. Teach them how to care for others in small ways. It’s all about the little things.
In this time of our global existential crisis, we have a great duty to bring out the best in people. Try to live by the favorite motto of the Blessed Mother Teresa to “do small things with great love.” But the small things can captivate the world.
Here are some ideas, but I would love for you to help me add more.
- Text someone and check in with them.
- If you have enough “end of days” supplies (toilet paper, peanut butter, etc), share your supplies with someone in need.
- Share your resources (teaching, cooking recipes, workout tutorials, entertainment ideas for indoors, etc) online.
- Post uplifting stuff on social media. Or funny dog/cat memes. Give your angry ranting a break. And if you never post, don’t start posting just to rant. Follow the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
- Tap into your creativity and make something!
- Shop local and support small businesses (online).
- Encourage others. Positive reinforcement is a helpful way to combat ignorance. Did you make it through the day without leaving the house at all? Tell others how you managed and inspire them! Kick-start positive behavior by example for others who feel like they will never get out of the circumstances they are in that moment.
*Edit: I asked my friends to help me add to the list, and here’s what they came up with:
- “I would write thank you notes to the daycare workers, grocery store employees, delivery workers, medical staff, etc. They are doing their job so we can stay home, go to work and be safe. ” -Christina McGowan, Math Department Chair/Interventionist
- “Extend that olive branch. If you know that you were wrong, maybe now is the time to make it right.” -Bernadette Blakely, Gifted and Talented Department Chair/GT English Teacher
- “ Schedule time to meet virtually with your tribe. FaceTime if you can, make a group chat, pick up the phone and call each other even. Promise to think about/check in with each other at a certain time of day and decide how much time can pass before you check on each other. Social distance doesn’t have to mean emotional isolation or loneliness. #Bettertogether” -Bernadette Blakely
- “Pick up supplies for those who can not get out and about. ” -Andrea Hobson, Choir Director
- “Take a few minutes to meditate or pray. Listen to what’s inside of you. Those whispers are the guidance in your life.” -Caytie Langford, Executive Coach/Public Speaker
- “Make a donation to a homeless shelter in your area. The homeless are incredibly vulnerable at this time. Be part of helping them.” -Caytie Langford
- “Write a thank you card and send it to someone that you are grateful for and let them know!” – Caytie Langford
- “Give people, including yourself, grace. These are hard times. And we, as humans, are not perfect.” -Caytie Langford
- “Give blood.” -Caytie Langford
- “Buy a journal and send it to someone who is a senior in high school or college. Write a note encouraging them to write about their experience.” – Caytie Langford
- “Think of people in your life that rely on you for income or whose income may be cut off if they stay home. Try to help them prepare if you can. If you have babysitters, house cleaners, gardeners, hair stylists, etc, go ahead and pay them for their time even if they won’t be working for the next month. Buy gift cards to your favorite local restaurants or coffee shops to use later! ” -Kathryn Butler, military wife/mother
- “Leave a small gift for your postal workers and delivery drivers, such as wipes, hand sanitizers, tissue, disposable gloves.” -Kristen Hensley, Attorney
- “Be mindful of your posts on social media. A lot more people have taken to social media as they self-quarantine. Remember that not everyone cares what you are doing for your family nor do they intend to do exactly what you think they should do.” -Kristen Hensley
- “Post pictures of baby animals.” -Kristen Hensley
- “Buy gift cards to your favorite stores and restaurants to help them sustain their businesses during this financially trying time.” – Kristen Hensley
- “Practice positive thinking. Every time I wanted to complain today, I reminded myself that I have my health, and that’s way more important than any minor inconveniences.” -Kristen Hensley
- “Every time I stand outside my front door to get fresh air, cars have been driving by. What I started doing was waving to each car that drives by even if they don’t look my way. I’ve gotten some waves back. Others have smiled. We’re all in this together, and I think more than ever, we all need to help and love one another.” -Lucinda Gonzalez, Hairstylist
- “I’ve been using FaceTime to keep my young daughter in touch with her friends. We’ve also been watching Frozen II every night, and it brings out her voice and laughter!” -Sandra Villareal, Brand Manager/BeautyCounter Consultant
- “Be grateful for the little things.” – Mary Jo Meisinger
The coronavirus is contagious, but so is compassion. The person you are being compassionate to benefits through your kindness and help, and you’ll feel great for having helped someone. The world is made better through your compassion. Compassion is characterized by actions. A simple act can make a world of difference in someone’s day (and in yours). You don’t need a global existential crisis to practice compassion. Try giving a little bit of love right now.