Sometimes life gets complicated and chaotic. Getting back to the basics can help to simplify things when that happens — like now.
The coronavirus seems to affect every level of life as we know it. We’ve all been reading the headlines and hearing the news broadcasts, so there’s no need to go into all of it again here. What I’d like to do instead is propose that we will all get through this more easily if we get back to the basics of compassion and common sense.
Let’s talk compassion first. The major religions and philosophies I know anything at all about anchor their core beliefs and practices in compassion. Though the words will vary with the version, the Bible says in Micah 6:8 and Ephesians 4:6 that Christians should emulate Jesus by acting with a sense of justice, mercy and compassionate kindness. Likewise, Judaism, Islam and Sufism all emphasize compassion as an attribute of God and one of the fruits of a relationship with the Divine. Compassion is one of the essential practices of Buddhism. The Wiccan Rede, a creed for many modern pagans, is summed up in the idea that a person is free to do what they will as long as their actions don’t cause harm to themselves or others. The wellbeing of others is a key principle found in humanism as well.
What does this have to do with the coronavirus? To quote John Donne, “No man is an island.” Or, as Sherrie Ottinger puts it in her column on page two today, “as with anything in this existence, everything has a direct effect on something else.”
You and I may be relatively healthy and able to fight off the coronavirus easily with only mild symptoms or perhaps none at all. For my grandson with leukemia, that could be an entirely different story — as it would have been for my mother, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or my brother Nathan, who had AIDS. It could be a very different story for our elderly neighbors or any number of people we routinely come into contact with whose medical histories we know nothing about.
So how do we show compassion in this situation? We decide to set our own egos and preferences aside. Instead of proving how tough and unafraid we are by flaunting the guidelines and recommendations from government and health agencies, including staying home if we get sick, we act as though what we do will affect those around us — in some cases, quite literally to the point of life and death. We postpone things that we dearly want to do if it means we could become a link in a chain of contagion that could lead to harm to others or lengthen or magnify the economic impacts of widespread illness.
That elderly neighbor down the street — have you called to see how they’re doing or if they need anything? Older folks sometimes won’t ask for help because they don’t want to “bother” others. How about that young family down the street who lives paycheck-to-paycheck? They may not be able to plan ahead for things like this. Do you have something they might need that you can share? Many organizations in our community are cancelling events that would have brought in revenue or comprise part of their yearly fundraising campaigns. Are you in a position to consider donating the cost of a ticket?
When all is said and done, the virus has passed and we’re on the other side of this — hopefully sooner rather than later — many local businesses could face losses in revenue on their books. We can help keep our local economy strong by making them a priority when we have to open our wallets to buy something.
Now, about common sense: Have you noticed the CDC and other public health agencies sound a lot like your mother? “Wash your hands.” “Eat your veggies.” “Get enough rest.” “Go outside and get some exercise.” It turns out we moms actually know a thing or two.
Hand sanitizer is second best when it comes to avoiding illness. Good old soap and water, as I understand it, is the first line of defense. Wash often to protect yourself and others. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available.
Keeping healthy means being better able to fight off what germs make it past handwashing and social distancing. So make the best choices possible about what you eat and drink.
Getting plenty of rest is important because sleep deprivation hinders your immune system from defending against illness.
Exercise helps the blood circulate, bringing vital nutrients to and removing waste from every part of the body. It also helps lymphatic fluid to circulate. The lymphatic system plays a vital role in immune function by transporting antibodies and lymphocytes to fight infection. Unlike the circulatory system with its heart, the lymphatic system has no pump of its own to circulate fluid. Instead, it relies on muscle contractions to squeeze the lymph vessels and propel lymphatic fluid through one-way valves in the vessels to move it throughout the body. So, to whatever degree and in whatever way makes sense to you and your doctor, keep moving.
None of this is rocket science but it’s important and effective, whether we’re talking about a pandemic, a domestic flue or the common cold.
There’s no escaping the fact that the coronavirus pandemic will leave it’s mark on families, communities, nations and economies that we’ll have to deal with as a country and across the globe for some time to come. But there will be good to come out of it too. This incident has revealed gaps in our public health resources and policies that are now being addressed so that our nation can respond more quickly and effectively in the future. It also gives us, the general public, a lesson in preparedness and what to expect in incidences of widespread public health concerns.
Whatever the future holds — and here’s hoping it’s all good — we can each play our part in looking after our neighbors and keeping our community strong right now and in the days to come by using some common sense and acting with compassion.