Together

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Good morning. Welcome to Saturday of one of the weirdest weeks most of us have experienced, at least collectively. I’m sure we’ve all had surreal, this-can’t-be-happening-to-me events, but the strangeness of those is that the world doesn’t stop in it’s tracks and everything goes merrily on while you stand there stunned.

But this week, we all stood there stunned.

An idea that challenged me this week: many of us probably unwittingly added to the toilet paper craze/hoarding/scarcity by bringing it up. Those memes were funny, at least some of them. It’s easy to vent about hoarders’ lunacy and it feels slightly cathartic. But as my friend John pointed out (paraphrasing), having every third post on social media refer to how we’re running out of toilet paper makes everyone think they should run out and buy up all the toilet paper!

This is where our social networking sites can be more of a problem than a good, and where, as my friend Paul always reminds me, a blog is more useful than Facebook. I don’t know how many of you will read this post today or in the future, but it’s very unlikely you will skim it, see the words “toilet paper!” in italics above, fling down your phone, and go rushing out to buy more toilet paper. It’s most unlikely because none of us ever let go of our phones these days.

Two thoughts from this, and the first is crucially important right now: in a country that has valued “rugged individualism,” we’re in the midst of a crisis that requires solidarity and cooperation to get through this without having a horrendous number of people die. The knee jerk response I think most of us have is, “But I just posted one thing; I didn’t cause people to lose their minds and stock their carts three feet above their head with TP! I sure as hell didn’t make people hoard those N95 masks! I didn’t cause the critical shortage among nurses and doctors!”

But John was right. The response on FB and Twitter that TP is now more valuable than gold, could become our legal tender, and is worth fighting off the neighbors (I’m sure you could name 50-100 other cutesy memes you saw) undoubtedly contributed to the overall impression that “Everyone is hoarding toilet paper and I must, too, or there won’t be any left for me!”

And now, there isn’t any left for those who are actually out and need some. And people are still “stocking up.”

So thought one is: WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER.

It’s time–it’s past time–to stop saying, “But I just did this one thing…” We’re all contributing to the cause, whether the cause is constructive or destructive. We are in this together.

You cannot know how much I wanted to go play ultimate this week. Wenatchee still had pick-up. I thought long and hard about whether I could justify to myself that this was worth the potential cost or rationalize that we could adapt play and not get too close. Then, when leaning toward going , I did what I often do when I know my biases are swaying me: I asked Kim.

“No, you shouldn’t do that,” Kim said.

Everyone needs to decide for themselves how to do their social distancing (or physical distancing while remaining socially connected). But I decided, with my wife’s more objective wisdom, that I shouldn’t model that going out and running and bumping into a bunch of people and all handling the same object while sweating–and no, there’s no way I’m going to remember while playing never to touch my face–is a good idea when we are all, together, trying to flatten the curve of this spreading virus. Instead, I’ve gone out the last three late afternoon/evenings and played baseball and thrown a disc with Corin. Not nearly as physically satisfying as a hard game of ultimate, but that’s the small part I could contribute to the overall good.

We’re all in this together and even though our individual actions feel small, even though the results can’t be measured individually to encourage us, we must see this as working together for the good of everyone. Yesterday my niece needed to go to two different stores. Her mom is sick. So I drove her, but chose not to go into either store. I didn’t need to, she didn’t need me to, and by staying in the car I didn’t add to that pool.

No marching band came marching up to celebrate my choice.* I felt a little weird, just waiting in the car. One store wouldn’t take cash (!?) and so I sent her back in with my credit card and driver’s license. Again, I was tempted just to go in and take care of it, but I’d committed to staying out of that store. I still need to go to stores sometimes, too, but when I don’t need to, I’m not going to. Because we’re in this together. I want to help, to participate in looking out for one another, and I want not to make things worse, whether by adding an increment to the TP panic or by adding myself unnecessarily to the pool of people who could be spreading the virus in a given place. Seriously, not everyone has the privilege of staying distanced and some people are putting their lives on the line every day to care for those hit by this. I can do my small part and so can you, and we must, because we’re in this together.

Second thought: In a time of higher anxiety, stress, and frustration, taking time and effort to see the bigger picture becomes ever more important. We got here, to this virus crisis and level of crisis with this virus, because the dangers were downplayed initially. That was bad. There are foolish posts circulating that claim you can kill the virus by drinking hot liquids, horrible people whom I won’t name offering to sell “cures,” and even now a portion of our population who believe this is an “overreaction” to some “lesser flu.”

I won’t pretend that learning more about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 will reduce your fears. The big picture is scary right now, in an immediate sense. But we have to understand what’s going on to respond appropriately and wisely. The people hoarding toilet paper–and again,

DON’T DO THIS

have a limited or skewed sense of what’s happening. I’m not saying they’d necessarily behave differently if they just read more–if there’s one thing I’ve grasped in the past three years, it’s that more information won’t fix the problem for people who don’t want to know. I am saying we are responsible to learn what’s going on and stop reacting to lies and partial information.

Sound bytes have a way of distorting information. Memes tell part of the truth, often very satisfyingly when it’s the part we want to emphasize. But if ever there were a time to tell the whole truth, as much as we can grasp and convey, this is it. I can’t control that people will keep telling lies about the virus, keep trying to take advantage of the crisis to swindle people (which is ghastly and I leave them to God), or try to spin the story for political purposes. People’s live are on the line, doctors and nurses are risking their lives, and now some are dying because we have people hoarding the protective masks they need.

What does this have to do with educating ourselves to what’s going on? We, right now, have to do our best to head off the next round of panicked foolishness. That means we have to breathe. We have to seek information from reliable sources. We have to be the ones proactively to spread accurate information.

So that’s my challenge for you. Instead of just settling for “I’m not spreading untruths,” we have to step up and spread the truth, countering the falsehoods circulating right now. We have to do this for our own good and for the good of everyone in our community, the big community of which we’re all a part.

You know, humanity.

Because we’re all in this together.

*Which, in truth, might have been counterproductive.

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