There are three reasons I’m writing this column:
n When a friend of mine took her elderly mother to a routine doctor’s appointment recently, she asked a nurse a question and was told at loud volume, “I don’t have time to answer your questions right now!” Later, the nurse came back and apologized, explaining that she had just learned that her children’s daycare was closing indefinitely.
n A customer walked into a local restaurant to pick up a to-go order after all West Virginia restaurants were ordered to stop dine-in service. A voice from behind the bar in the darkened restaurant greeted the customer by yelling, “What are you doing in here?” Once the customer explained he was picking up a to go order, the server apologized and got his order together.
n A six-year old girl dropped a bag of French fries in the driveway of her home and her father yells, “I just told you not to drop your food!” The father hugs his daughter and apologizes several times throughout the day for yelling at her.
While I was told the first two anecdotes from friends, I know the third one is true because I was one doing the yelling and apologizing to my daughter, Maggie. I still feel awful about yelling at her, but it happened so quickly. Now that a few days have gone by since the French fry incident, I’ve reflected on it and other experiences as we find ourselves in the time of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
Hopefully, like my family and me, you are taking precautions. You’re monitoring information from credible sources and working to keep your family and friends safe. You’re checking on others who need to be checked on. And, like those of us with the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, you’re concerned about everyone’s livelihood and wracking your brain to keep this economy of ours working as much as possible.
To say that we are under stress is a complete understatement. I told a friend recently that if our internal stress meter has a one-to-ten gauge connected to it, no one is less than a three at all times now. Although I’m not a medical professional, I worry about the strain on our mental health, as well as the physical toll that this kind of emotional weight can do to our bodies.
So my conclusion is a simple one. We need to recognize that we may not have the virus, but we have all caught the fear of it to varying degrees. As I write these words, we’re caught between an escalating rate of virus detection and joblessness, combined with the ambiguity as to when this bad science fiction movie we find ourselves in is going to end. We buy toilet paper to make us feel better, which we know has no connection to the virus itself. Simply put, we have all gone a little bit crazy.
So what can we do? While it’s no easy task in times like these, we need to try to be kind to each other. Take a breath (at a safe distance). Hold your tongue (but wash your hands). And stay in contact with people (but not in the same room). I believe with all my heart that we will get through this uncertain period, but also believe that the potential of pain and anguish ahead is terrifying.
As West Virginians, we’ll meet this challenge better together, rather than at loud volume or with harsh words. While what I’m suggesting is not easy and I’m to blame as much as the next person, West Virginians are known not only for their resiliency but also for their kindness, and we will need both of these wonderful traits to make it through the times ahead.