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Observations from the Outbreak

“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.” – Lee Iacocca

Words to live by as we, the human race, face such a small, yet seemingly insurmountable foe. It is easy to be sucked in by the mass media coverage and let fear take over, leaving no room for optimism or faith. Struggling with these issues as well, I have observed and learned a few things about myself, my world, and my fellow human beings around the globe. Some are humorous and anecdotal, some are scientific, and some are philosophical. All of them, however, have struck a chord in me and I would like to share them.

1. People have no idea how much toilet paper they use in a month.

I have read countless articles on this phenomenon–noting phrases like the “fear/contagion effect” and “panic driven purchasing.” Yeah, I get it–you see someone in the store with 5 packages of toilet paper and you think, “hmmm, do they know something I don’t” or “wow, maybe I should stock up just in case.” And while I agree with these thoughts, I propose an additional one–we really don’t think about the amount of toilet paper we go through. When it is close to running out we just go buy more. It is a side thought almost, like buying milk or bread. Maybe I’m wrong–maybe everyone else out there can give a number for how many rolls of TP they use in a week and I am the odd ball. Wherever the answer may lie, it is still food for thought.

2. Parents are learning just how difficult it is to teach.

On a daily basis educators must not only teach various subjects but must get and maintain the attention of their students. All of this while presenting the material in an enthusiastic and understandable way. I have read countless stories from tired and frustrated parents who grapple with keeping their kids engaged in their work or who struggle to remember how to do math and science (and then teach it). People who once frowned upon or didn’t “get” the idea of homeschooling are now actively seeking out information and advice from the home school community. I homeschooled for 10 years before returning to the workforce, so I know exactly how these parents feel. Even though I am physically and academically prepared to teach my son at home for the next 6 weeks, I am beginning to feel the pressure to meet all of his needs in a timely and patient manner. Our country is getting a taste of life pre-public school, and while I think it’s extremely cool, I feel for those parents who are feeling lost, scared or unprepared.

3. The mass media and politicians will always use a national crisis to their advantage.

I like being an informed citizen. Reading and watching the news is important to me. And while I am accustomed to yellow journalism and “fake news” it baffles me the amount of mud slinging and fear mongering that has been rampant in the media lately. I understand the role the media has to play in order to keep viewers/readers, and I get that politicians never take a day off from trying to get ahead, but when that gets in the way of helping our nation navigate an unprecedented event, I get a little testy. For this reason I am trying to keep myself from watching/reading too much. This. Is. Hard. It is hard but necessary in order to keep myself calm and not fall into the Chicken Little Syndrome that seems to have invaded the media and politicians.

4. In the constant battle between humans and Mother Nature, Mother Nature will always win.

We live in a digitally dominated society where information and entertainment can be spread in milliseconds. We have biotechnology which provides better medicines to prevent, treat and cure illnesses. Advanced engineering provides stronger buildings that can withstand earthquakes. I could go on and on, but at the end of the day none of these advancements can fully protect us from what Mother Nature has in store. Hackers can infiltrate our systems, buildings can still collapse, and a microscopic virus can bring our society to its knees. Whether you call it Mother Nature, God, or Darwinism, it is times like these that we are reminded (or at least I am) that we are not in charge.

5. Our bodies are fragile, but our spirits are resilient.

For as complex as the human body is, it is also extremely fragile. Body systems that work together to ward off illness and disease can sometimes be no match for a simple, tiny virus. It has been many years since the world has seen such sickness and death, and I watch and read about so many families who have lost loved ones during this outbreak. It pains me to realize how the mere act of going to the grocery store puts me and my loved ones at risk. But when I go back and read stories about pandemics of the past, I see how the human spirit prevailed through it all. Through that loss and hard ship there were still people out there, helping one another to survive. I see that today as well with neighbors helping neighbors, young people running errands for the elderly, and families reconnecting while they are self-quarantined at home. I see medical professionals and first responders working tirelessly to help the sick. Pushing us forward, the human spirit can be a calming presence in the face of sickness and sadness.

6. We are all in this together.

Mother Nature does not discriminate. When it comes to our current antagonist, COVID-19, no one is exempt. There are no free passes. Math is not my best friend–I much prefer a good book, but I do believe that once this outbreak is over, every soul on this planet will have been affected in some way by the virus. Either you had the virus, had a friend or family member who had it, had a co worker who had it–you get my point. At some point we will all be affected physically, emotionally, academically, financially and/or spiritually. The only difference we will all have is in how we handle it. We can freak out and panic or we can approach it calmly and rationally. For the most I have been calm and have prepared as much as possible. Am I scared? YEP. Am I worried? YEP. Have I bought too much toilet paper? ABSOLUTELY. Am I alone in this? NOPE. We are absolutely all in this–the entire planet. But, as always, we will get through it. We will mourn our losses and then carry on as societies and nations. We will learn to hug our loved ones a little more (once quarantines are over, of course), we will appreciate (hopefully) the little things in life, and we will be able to tell our grandchildren about how we survived.

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