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Navigating a pandemic with purpose and intention

With phrasing, like “shelter in place” and “social distancing” any self-respecting binge-watcher may mistake the present state of the world as a dystopian end-of-days series streaming on one of the numerous online platforms that are, now, a normal part of life. Rest assured, this state of events is all too real; from the political posturing to the over-reactive panic to the cynical bystanders, and yes to the shocking and ever-growing fatalities.

Like many citizens of the world, Americans are no stranger to tragedy. We often look back with nostalgia on past times when we band together as a united people to move through tragedy instigated by nature or humans. Will this period be remembered as such a time? Well, that depends upon who is asking and who is answering. Some officials in positions of leadership insist that this country is maintaining its resilient and valiant status, conquering a frightful foe. Others in communities, particularly communities with few resources and higher risk for vulnerability, will argue that the line of division only grows deeper and wider between the haves and the have-nots.

What is abundantly clear, is a spectrum of responses to the pandemic known as COVID-19. Social media and news outlets are fertile grounds for arguments about how serious the impact of this coronavirus really is. By now, many have seen the footage of consumers fighting in grocery stores over the last bulk package of toilet paper, or folks who sniffle getting berated by anxious and afraid observers. This is another nostalgic image of how humans respond to tragedy, more specifically fear of tragedy. During the months, even years, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many people appearing to resemble middle eastern descent, even in the slightest way, were victims of ridicule or hate crimes. The same can be said about Japanese Americans after World War II, protesters and outspoken veterans in the late 60s and early 70s, and African Americans throughout much of their history on American soil. These reactions to fear are not unique to the United States; they are renowned in all corners of the Earth.

Since we cannot solve the world’s problems in one conversation, let’s start with addressing what we can do in regard to what is happening right now, in the present. So many people are experiencing significant spikes in anxiety, due to the current coronavirus. I’d like to extend an invitation to the people at large to be mindful, alert, and rational. It’s easy to allow the anxiety to sneak up and take control, but we don’t need to let it drive, just because it’s present. One important point is to acknowledge that anxiety and fear are not inherently bad. They come in pretty handy when causing us to pay attention to potential threats, like oncoming traffic or venomous animals protecting their space. With that said, anxiety can become overwhelming and quite paralyzing, such that its usefulness evades us. In order to help promote intentional vigilance and calm rational self-care, I’m offering some recommendations.