I’ll admit it, I had an anxiety attack or two or maybe even three in the last week or two as the inevitable spread of the COVID virus came closer and closer to becoming a reality in West Virginia. The fear of the unknown and my frustration with others I care about not seeming to take COVID seriously had me at a loss. I struggled to make sense of what was happening in and to our world. How would we, as a society, handle such extraordinary circumstances and disruptions to our lives?
What is Going on Here?
Even before COVID, I was struggling with what was happening in our society as social media seemingly had turned into a battleground, with my feeds full of negativity and rhetoric from those espousing one political view or another. I became even more frustrated and worried about what was happening in our society when, during a recent return trip to the grocery store, I stopped to thank a couple employees who were struggling with getting stock onto bare shelves.
The relief on their faces startled me as they explained how many people had been yelling at them about bare shelves and they thanked me for a kind word and recognizing that they were doing the best they could under extraordinary circumstances. That people had been yelling at these workers, workers who had no control over the stock they received, only reinforced my view that we had become a self-centered society that no longer understood how what we say and do can affect others.
A Sign of Hope
And then, seemingly suddenly, I started to see our world changing for the better. Social media feeds started changing from negativity and political rhetoric to thanking those on the front lines of the COVID crisis – the healthcare workers, the truckers and, yes, the grocery store employees. People started offering to help and get supplies for those with higher risk of suffering serious consequences if they become infected. People started sewing masks for healthcare workers and first responders. People are encouraging others to stay safe and flood social media with positivity. People are encouraging others to stay at home, if not for their own sake for the sake of friends, family members and neighbors who are at high risk. Musicians and celebrities are entertaining us – free of charge- from their homes so that we stay in ours and slow the spread.
My neighborhood has started writing messages on the sidewalks in chalk to encourage each other and to just have a kind word out there for anyone who needs to see it. While walking my dog the last few days, I’ve encountered and had the opportunity to meet so many new neighbors, people I’ve never seen before. Everyone is taking time to say hello and to encourage each other to stay safe. Most importantly, people are telling others to spread the word to anyone who is scared to go to get supplies or who shouldn’t go out because they are high risk, to call and they will go for that person so do not have to go out in public.
I’m not naïve. I realize the COVID situation is going to get much, much worse before it gets better. While we are all stuck at home to hopefully minimize the threat to ourselves, our families, our friends and our neighbors, let’s make a commitment to reconnect with one another. Reach out each day to someone you haven’t communicated with in a while, see how they are doing, let them know you are thinking of them and that you care. Reach out to people you know may live alone, especially the elderly, people who are likely to be become more and more lonely and depressed without social interaction. Take a break from the endless news cycle or working at home to pet your dog, to meditate, to exercise, to do whatever you enjoy or that helps you relax and improve your mental health. And don’t forget – if you encounter a grocery store worker, a health care worker, a custodian or anyone else who is out there putting themselves at risk to keep you and those you love safe and provide you with food and other essentials, thank them and vow to yourself to remember what they did for you when this is all over. It is not going to be the CEOs or big business that gets us through this crisis. It will be the hourly workers doing the thankless jobs to whom we will all owe a debt of gratitude.
My hope is that when this is all over, and it will be over one day, that we remember how we came together to support each other, to take care of one another, to respect one another and to connect with one another during this time and that we don’t go back to where we were just a few weeks ago. In the meantime, stay safe and know that the attorneys and staff at GKT are here for you.