The way people react in a time of crisis says a lot about them.
As I was taking a brief break from navigating the uncharted waters of COVID-19 this week, that old line from Abe Lincoln kept running through my head. The context we are facing today may be different, but the words still ring true.
“Divided we fall,” Abe said. In view of recent events, he was right. If our actions are motivated by greed and selfishness, the pain and suffering in our local communities will surely increase.
When I walked through the aisles of the local grocery store this week, I could scarcely believe what I saw, even though I had read stories and seen photos from other areas. The paper goods aisle had been wiped out, the bread department was nearly empty, and there were gaps on the shelves throughout the store. It was bizarre.
That is part of what I mean about people’s reaction in times of crisis.
Apparently, for some people, the automatic response to a challenge is to hoard every package of toilet paper they can find. I don’t understand that on any level, and I don’t believe I want to. Why a person thinks they need a cart full of bog rolls to combat the threat of a respiratory virus is beyond me.
This kind of paranoid greed is more dangerous than the virus itself. When people panic and adopt an “every-man-for-himself” outlook, they deprive others, especially those who are most at risk, of the things they need.
I can’t help thinking these are the same people who would trample women, children, and those who are weak or ill, in order to get a seat in a lifeboat.
If we allow this crisis to divide us, we will, as Abe warned, fall.
On the other hand, I have seen numerous signs of compassion and concern during these difficult times, and this offers hope.
I’ve seen examples of people who offered to pick up items at grocery stores or pharmacies for neighbors, especially the elderly who are most at risk and may fear going to the store because of the potential of being exposed to COVID-19.
Other people have offered to help with daycare or babysitting to reduce the burden on those who may be struggling to care for their children since schools have been closed.
Still others have offered to donate food for those in need.
Local businesses have offered to provide drive-up services or delivery to help reduce potential exposure to the virus for customers who are most at risk. Other businesses have established “seniors only” shopping hours to reduce stress for that group.
Some restaurants, which have been hit especially hard by mandated closures, have offered meals or beverages to those in need.
Creative people have offered suggestions for ways to raise the spirits of others, such as having children draw pictures and write letters to be delivered to people in care facilities who may be feeling isolated and afraid since visitors are not being permitted.
These are examples of the finer side of human behavior. If we use common sense, and buy what we need, rather than hoarding items out of greed, there will be enough to go around. If we look out for our friends and neighbors, and do what we can to help one another through this crisis, it will be easier for all of us. As Abe said, “united we stand.”
COVID-19 is new territory, but if we work together, we’ll all get through this.