A warm virtual hug to all who are doing what they can to flatten the curve, to give our healthcare system a fighting chance, to give us a fighting chance. To nurses, doctors, all who support them, first responders, grocery store and food supply staffs, delivery people and the many, many others who are going to work each day to save lives while we stay home. Their commitment, their courage deserves our deepest respect and admiration. And, perhaps, our love.
Evidence of compassion is everywhere. Governors Cuomo, Newsom and Pritzker acting decisively to protect those in New York, California and Illinois, with others surely to follow suit. People stepping forward to volunteer to shop for the elderly. Children replacing food for books in informal neighborhood library boxes. Private citizens voluntarily donating N95 masks and other personal protective equipment to hospitals throughout the country. Teachers developing online education on the fly. School districts continuing to provide food each day for its students. Houses of worship offering online prayer services. Funds being established to support food banks and organizations dedicated to immigrants and the homeless. Stores establishing shopping hours for seniors. Professional athletes committing to pay salaries of furloughed workers. Apple donating 1 million masks and $15 million to the COVID-19 response, plus a 2-to-1 match for all donations made by its employees. Facebook donating $1,000 to each employee to help them transition to working at home. Amazon committing to hiring 100,000 workers and raising the hourly wages of fulfillment workers. Target and Walmart raising the wages of all part- and full-time employees in stores and distribution centers. Countless companies guaranteeing laid-off workers’ pay for at least the next two weeks and adding paid medical leave for their employees. Even more providing emotional support to their workforces via thoughtful, sensitive, and caring emails urging employees to take care of themselves and their families as they juggle work, parenting and, now for millions, homeschooling.
We all must do our part if we are to survive the pandemic with the least pain. For most of us, our new job is to stay home. To stay physically away from everyone. To avoid stores, to avoid places people congregate, to avoid all physical contact outside the home. We must assume that we are carriers and must take every precaution to prevent the spreading of the disease. COVID-19 is an equal opportunity virus: If you are human — regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation and even whether you believe the virus is dangerous — it wants you. It needs you. And once it has you, you become a vehicle, an unwitting accomplice for the disease. Your bad luck or your irresponsibility can kill. You know this. But do you believe it? Those packing the Florida beaches last week no doubt didn’t. Their foolishness, their selfishness, might cost lives.
We are in the midst of an unparalleled time. The challenges are great. We are being forced to do exactly the opposite of our instincts, for people tend to need to be together during times of crisis. To connect, to hug, to commiserate, to cry and, later, to laugh in person. We gain strength from the physical presence of others. This is why we flocked to Ground Zero immediately after 9/11, why we congregate after the death of a family member or friend, why we gather in front of the site of a disaster. It soothes, comforts and enriches us.
Now, instead, we must maintain our physical distance from everyone. We will need to rely on the telephone, email, texting, social media, conference calling and, among others, Zoom. We can also go old school and write letters. Regardless of your go-to methods, do what you can to stay emotionally close to your friends and family. It’s all we can do; it’s what we must do. The challenge is to maintain if not strengthen our social interactions without being in the same physical space — which is why it should be called ‘physical distancing’ rather than ‘social distancing.’ Thankfully, the virus cannot travel through cables or via airwaves, so there really are no good excuses for not calling your mother, your father, and that long-disconnected sibling. They and you will feel better, more grounded, better equipped to deal with the uncertainty. Make the call, write the letter. Repeat often.
One last thought: Our humanity, our commitment to each other, will help us survive. And make us stronger. Thank you for everything you are doing to help us get through this. I, for one, thoroughly appreciate it.