If you wake-up one morning and think, “I’d like to take my three small children to Smith’s in the middle of a global pandemic,” here’s a pro tip for you: Don’t do it. You may find yourself assaulted by something even more contagious than COVID-19: fear.
Coronavirus Reaches New Mexico
I’m generally not an unprepared person. I use hand sanitizer religiously due to my son’s asthma. But somehow, we found ourselves without our usual stock of sanitizing materials when the news broke about the first coronavirus cases in New Mexico. My only choice was to quickly hit the store with my three kids.
People were honking at each other in the parking lot! The check-out lines wrapped around the entire store! As an employee re-stocked an empty aisle of paper products, I saw people walking by and hurriedly grabbing them. I didn’t need toilet paper or paper towels. But the shelf was almost empty! Watching everyone’s behavior, I felt the strongest urge to run over and grab one too.
I saw an empty shelf with three cases of bottled water on it. “Should I get water?” I thought. “Wait, what’s gonna happen to our water?!” The thought had never even crossed my mind. Suddenly I was grabbing a case, and honestly, I’m not even completely sure why.
Fear is Contagious
People were hurried and grumpy. A mood of heaviness and fear hung in the air. I suddenly felt panicky too. And here’s the weird thing: I don’t think I was actually panicking about coronavirus. I was panicking because other people were panicking.
It continued when I got home. Although I had acquired hand soap, I couldn’t find anything for sanitizing “on the go.” I called my husband at work and said, “I need help! I can’t take the three kids back to the store! I can’t find any hand sanitizer, or rubbing alcohol, or BLEACH!” The panic was rising up in me. “We are in the middle of a GLOBAL PANDEMIC, we have a child with ASTHMA, and there IS NO BLEACH.”
I had to stop and compose myself. And when I did, I realized that I had seen other people, fearful and anxious, and I let it jump off of them onto me. Fear is contagious. Panic is contagious. When people around us are anxious, it begins to creep onto us as well.
Peace is Contagious
Here is the good news. Peace is contagious, too. Kindness is contagious. Humor is contagious.
Let’s be a force for peace and kindness during this difficult time. We can smile at tired grocery store employees and thank them for their hard work. We can laugh with a stranger in the allergy aisle at Walgreens about buying Claritin for our seasonal allergies because we don’t want to freak people out by sneezing in public. Or we can help a friend who needs childcare or share where to find meals during the school shutdown.
Suddenly, instead of fear and panic, peace and kindness and gratitude are spreading too.
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