The Only Way To Beat The Pandemic Is With Empathy

I’ve been very troubled lately by how the world seems to be carrying on despite the tragic and terribly sad circumstances we are currently in. I find it difficult to express my feelings on this, as it is not my intention to shame or to place blame on anyone. I know we are all doing the best we can and that we each have our own unique coping mechanisms. It’s an immensely frightening and uncertain situation, and it’s something that none of us have experienced before. Because of this, it’s only natural that we are all reacting in different ways.

But I am also aware that we each play a part in what happens next in this crisis. We can add fuel to the flames of this virus, or we can be the ones carrying buckets of water—the ones easing some of the pain. I’ve realized that if we want to prevent the worst possible outcome, there’s only one thing we need: to be empathetic. We need to practice empathy. We each have the power to save lives and to prevent unnecessary suffering if we simply do our best to care about others. If we shift our values from “me” to “we,” if we can each be a bit more compassionate and caring, we will each be doing our part to put out the fire.

It’s heartbreaking to see photos on social media of people going out to crowded bars and restaurants or hanging out with groups of friends and not acknowledging that these actions could create a ripple effect that could lead to the suffering or death of someone in a nursing home, or someone’s mom, or someone’s grandfather, or someone’s best friend.

I think that those of us with chronic illnesses are a little more used to loss. We are familiar and accustomed to not getting to do what we had hoped to do. We’ve gotten used to missing out on plans and road trips, or even school and work. But the fact that we are used to sitting out on plans doesn’t make missing out any easier. We don’t necessarily enjoy being at home the majority of the time. Yet we have learned (and are constantly learning) how to cope. We have learned to do our best despite the circumstances, and we have found a new way to be.

And this is probably why I think it hurts so much to see that other people aren’t willing to do the same, even when doing so has the potential to save lives. Because we have had to experience so many losses in our own lives, it’s difficult to see others continuing to avoid small sacrifices that could make such an impactful difference.

And I understand that it’s hard when no one is “forcing” people to stay home. I understand that it’s tempting to have friends over or to go out and grab drinks. It’s easy to just revert back to normal living. But we need to think of all of the vulnerable people who are counting on us to protect them. We have to keep in mind those that need us to keep them safe. We have to have empathy for others, including those that we don’t personally know. And we have to all come together and care just a little bit more.

And I do want to acknowledge that we do need each other, and that mental health is so incredibly important. There are safe ways to find comfort and support and to feel less alone. We can open our bubbles to one or two friends or family members who are also staying isolated (and are therefore not contributing to the spread). We can have socially distant picnics. We can even do small vacations, like the beach or a cabin, if we are intentional about being careful.

We can be social as long as we are responsible and cautious. There are certainly still ways to love each other and show up for each other while simultaneously helping to heal the world.

I know it’s hard, but when it all comes down to it, the more we care, the more lives we save. So show up for each other and know that if you stay home, you’re part of the healing and not the hurting.

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