Well, I’ve been sick. Not with the coronavirus but with some other kind of germ. In fact, my entire household (apart from the puppers) has been sick. I swear that I should just schedule a time each February, March, or April to be sick and embrace the germs that always seem to plague me during those months. Anyway, during our sniffling, coughing, and feeling similarly to zombies, the coronavirus decided to pay a visit to my town. Great.
While the virus’s arrival wasn’t unexpected, people’s responses to it have been. Maybe you think that I’m talking about those who are scared and stockpiling. Or maybe you think that I’m talking about the ones who are worried that they already have it somehow. No. I’m talking about the people who are healthy and who aren’t scared. What I’ve seen is a lack of compassion that is, quite frankly, saddening. Yet, I’ve also seen some uplifting acts of human kindness and compassion that I hope will greatly outnumber the bad. Let me give you some examples of both.
I saw an Instagram story from a fisherman who recorded a Chinese man having what looked like a butterfly net slammed over his head as Chinese officials in hazmat suits ambushed him from behind. The fisherman and her friend laughed. I literally study laughter, so I understand that the sight is shocking and that shock can illicit involuntary laughter to release the tension we feel inside. It’s the same reason (well, part of the reason) why we sometimes laugh when someone unexpectedly falls. While a bit bothersome, it’s understandable. What’s truly bothersome is that she consciously and purposefully recorded that and posted it to her social media. She consciously and purposefully posted a moment of misery and terror in another human’s life—a human who will be quarantined and may or may not get sick and who may or may not survive—to poke fun. That’s disturbing.
I’ve seen several people publicly shame others for stockpiling and panicking. I understand that these people are, in a way, trying to calm others. They are trying to shame behaviors that they see as unnecessary and even as harmful so that the behaviors stop. They are trying to shame any group think that may lead to harming others (i.e., stockpiling to then resell those products at ridicuolous prices to make quick profits or unecessarily stockpiling to the detriment of others who may need those items). They may even be honestly trying to combat what they view as politicians and companies using the coronavirus to fearmonger and obtain money and power. My question is: Why do it so condescendingly? If you want to accomplish such things, fine. We need logical and calm voices. But why must such logic come in condescending words? Why must logic shame? It doesn’t need to. Logic and compassion are not mutually exclusive.
I’ve seen several people assume others’ situations and tease them or criticize them for acting “paranoid” or “germaphobic.” I don’t understand. We live in a time where people are increasingly (although not perfect by any means yet) accepting of others’ physical, belief, and life differences, which is wonderful. Yet, when we see “germaphobic” behaviors, we think that it’s okay to shame those people? We think that it’s okay to assume their health situations? Where is the compassion for those people?
Think if you were one of the sick people or a sick person’s loved one. Think if you belonged to one of the at-risk groups. Think if one of your loved ones belonged to one of the at-risk groups. Think if your town was being directly affected. How do you view those “germaphobic” behaviors from those points of view?
While I won’t give exact details (they aren’t necessary anyway), I will say this: my family and I are part of the at-risk groups. I almost lost one of my parents this winter. I don’t want to go through that again.
Please don’t misunderstand me to think that I don’t want people to speak their minds. I do. My aim is not to stop the conversation between people or to tell people to stop posting what they want on social media. It’s to ask for a little more compassion and empathy for those who may be scared or affected. That’s all.
Although we’re seeing a lot of negative behaviors during this time, I’ve got to say that we’re also seeing a lot of positive. People are sharing what they have “stockpiled.” Some patrons are buying gift certificates to local restuarants so that the businesses can use the money now to pay employees and stay afloat. Some are cancelling their travel plans because they understand that while they may be able to fight the virus just fine, others (loved ones and strangers alike) who come into contact with them may not be able to. Communities are coming together to donate food and make sure that families are still being fed. Amazon and Ebay are starting to stop the price gouging (maybe at the behest of state prosecutors, but hey, I’ll take it). Businesses are cancelling big events so as not to promote the spread of the virus. Teachers are switching to online teaching environments like absolute champs. Our government is doing some wonderfully innovative things in medicine and to try and protect small businesses. These are all good things, and I hope that these good acts will eventually heavily outweigh the negative ones that I’ve seen thus far.
In the meantime, I will continue to stay home as much as I can, I will stay home if I feel sick again and wear a mask around my family (I’ll be one of those fancy trendsetters!), I will continue to use an excessive amount of hand sanitizer after I open a door in public, I will continue to wash my hands more than usual, I will continue to worry (even though I know that little is in my control—heck, a guy coughed without covering right over the tomatoes at the grocery store the other day . . . so much for the homemade spaghetti marinara I wanted to make), and I will continue to hope that spring will bring an end to this virus and a start back to normal life.