There is no time for hysteria. No time for panic. No time for ignorance. No time for carelessness and selfishness.
There is all the time in the world for thoughtfulness. All the time for calm. All the time for wisdom. All the time for love and empathy.
If we stay calm and listen to people who understand this outbreak – our own medical, scientific and public health authorities, as well as those who are experiencing this in other countries (increasingly, Italy) – we as a country can emerge from this with a relatively small impact.
If we don’t, we won’t.
I believe it really is that simple.
We have been sufficiently warned, so what we do about it is up to us. Now if I have a fear, an anxiety about this, it’s actually because of us. Because of how we as Americans tend to be.
We Americans are fiercely independent (and stubborn). And that fierce independence might get a lot of us killed if we don’t learn to temper it.
So I say, turn that iron American will towards our future. Be independent and stubborn about the future. About the way of life we want after this thing works its way through our society, through humanity.
Flex a bit today, to stand strong tomorrow.
Nobody knows what post-outbreak America and the world will look like. But we can imagine – and math/science can help us predict – what an uncontrolled, uncontained outbreak will look like, and it’s not good at all. Yes, that also scare me on several levels.
The best way to continue to enjoy our American-ness, is to put it on low-key mode for a few weeks, or even a few months. Or heck, even a year if it comes to that. Because if it takes that long to beat this, it’s worth it.
It’s worth preventing as much loss of life as we can.
Realize this really, really small thing might be really, really big. Listen to the CDC and your state health department as they talk about the measures we must take. Listen to your local government as they report what’s happening on the ground. Make the adjustments that might seem so inconvenient at the moment, but in hindsight will look minor.
Focus on protecting everyone you know, by limiting your interactions with them, and even isolating yourself from your family if you get sick.
Focus on protecting the people you don’t know, by limiting your interactions with people you know and with strangers, by avoiding large groups, and by helping support those of us who don’t have the luxury, the opportunities or the resources to weather this storm alone.
Let me say a bit more about this.
You might be sick and not know it. So it’s not about you. It’s about the people you come in contact with. The virus is loose, and the best way to contain it is to avoid as much contact as possible. That’s for your good, your family’s good, our community’s good and the whole of our society.
This next point is really major.
Care for those of us who have less advantage, are going through tough times, or are working their behinds off to serve the rest of us: healthcare workers, police, firefighters, retail workers, teachers and education workers, government workers, janitors, childcare workers. Fight for the people who can’t work from home. Who can’t take off time without losing their jobs. Who are worried sick about who’s going to take care of their loved ones if they get sick.
You know them. You look in their eyes when you interact. You know they are doing a job because on some level, they either have no choice, or they do and they make it, to make the rest of our lives easier. Whether they have a choice or don’t, the people we are counting on to show up for work in this crisis deserve our admiration, our respect… and our distance. Let them do their job with as little human interaction as possible, and if that eventually means their job gets put on pause, then let’s support them financially and otherwise to ensure their lives are not destroyed because they did work that no one else would do, far longer than most of us would choose to do it.
So, that’s the scary part. But that’s not the end of this story. It never, ever, ever is. As long I have walked on this earth, it has never been the end of the story.
After the fear, after the loss, after the changes we must endure… something beautiful will emerge. I guarantee it, even if I happen to come down with this illness, or get hit by a car, or suffer some other fate that prevents me from seeing the dawn that I know will surely come.
After this is over my friends, your story, my story, OUR story will go on. Life will go on. It always does. I know, not for everyone. And yes, I realize it will be changed. But it will continue.
I have been through so much in my life, and I know it amounts to very little compared to those who have struggled in ways I cannot fathom. Yet, my struggles are mine, and I cherish them. Because all of the battles I have fought, both self-imposed and the ones I could not turn away from, taught me something I hold onto as preciously as I hold onto my life: I can make it.
I can make it.
You can make it.
WE can make it.
So do not ignore the peril. It’s real.
And do not stay crying in the dark. Morning will come.
Press on. Press through. Look up, through your fears, and eventually, possibly, through your tears. And sense the beginnings of a ray of that dawn’s early light. The beginnings of a smile creasing at the corners of your mouth. Seize your joy in the morning. Better yet, get that joy on credit and enjoy it now. Help others find it. Spread it.
Be the light in the darkness.
Fight this biological pandemic with an emotional one: a pandemic of wise love.
That’s how we get through this. By being smart. And being empathetic. By loving one another at a distance, so we can eventually love one another up close again.
Love y’all. Mean it.