One of the fascinating things to observe about the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine is what it brings out in people. For example, the things that people keep hidden or even flat out ignore under normal circumstances. This is when we see the disease bringing out the worst in people. Whether it be higher levels of rudeness or just uninhibited aggression, I have seen some ugly qualities come out in people. And I understand. They are scared and acting out is their coping mechanism. However, it is not tolerable. This is a collective struggle and the line between acting out in pandemic-induced frustration and committing pandemic-fueled violent hysteria is a thin one. I have not seen any examples of that personally, but we’ve only be quarantined for a little less than a month.
However, I don’t want to focus on the negative. Times are tough for everyone right now and it does not do anyone any good to think about how terrible people can be. Acknowledging that it exists is important in understanding the societal impact of the pandemic as a whole, but I have little patience for nastiness. Especially more now than ever before. But I wanted to frame the reality of what is happening all around us when I shift and talk about the positive. And I have seen some this situation bring out the best in people.
I am inspired by the how my community, and the communities I see online and on social media, have come together to offer support for eachother. I’ve seen people make food and supply deliveries. There are people making cloth face masks. The sidewalk chalk philosophers and their words of wisdom and encouragement are sustaining my soul. Food banks are getting resources to people in need. Nurses and doctors are absolute heroes and continue to fight an unimaginable fight every day. And the essential workers at the grocery stores are just as kind, friendly, and courteous as ever.
And all this has me think about how I am feeling and reacting during all this. Of course, I have my ups and down like everyone else. Most days I am fine, but I do get moody and sullen from time to time. However, that is ok. During a situation beyond anyone’s control, with what few areas where I have control, I feel as though I am contributing something positive.
I’ve done a few grocery and supply runs for some at risk individuals, and I find that to be very mentally and spiritually engaging. I keep in close contact with a few friends and keep myself 100% available if they need to talk or vent about their worries and frustrations. I’ve made pacts with my friends who are also neighbors that, should either one of us get sick, we’ll handle their grocery runs while they stay in and recover. I’m staying physically active, doing home exercises almost daily and running in alleys when its nice enough out, as opposed to just watching too much television. All these are small victories, but they keep my spirits up and maintain community and connection during troubled times. I sometimes think about whether I could do more, but I have to let those feelings go and find solace in the fact that I am doing my best.
Kindness is what is going to be key to survive this with as much mental and physically wellbeing as possible. It is too easy to let the dread sink in and poison you to the point where you feel the only way to cope is to be just be generally awful. Anyone can be rude and mean because it is just too easy. It takes courage, strength, and bravery to be kind. It takes work. We have to take care of ourselves before we take care of others and taking care of eachother is sometimes the only thing people have during a time of crisis.
Bill Withers passed away last week, thankfully not due to COVID-19. For someone who was active as a performer for only 15 years, he has had a lasting social and musical impact. His songs have been covered in virtually every genre and the truth inherent in his lyrics remain relatable decades later. A member of several music hall of fames, his legacy is secure. And he had accomplished so much by keeping his message and attitude simple and straightforward.
That is why I love his song “Lean on Me” so much. The first single from his second studio album, 1972’s Still Bill, “Lean on Me” remains one of his most enduring tunes and is perhaps his most famous. Withers had written the song after moving to Los Angeles from his home in West Virginia. He was living in a poorer part of the city and was missing the spiritual and emotional connections he had with his community back home. This song was a means for him to stay connected to the community and he made an effort to keep the lyrics simple and relatable. And he certainly accomplished that.
Community is very important. And no matter where we find ourselves in life, maintaining connections to the communities that built and nourish us is important. That connection is one of the most important ones we have, and it becomes essential not to lose that. And that is why I feel hopeful when I see people treating eachother with kindness and respect during a very difficult time. Otherwise, when all this is over, what would we have left? Nothing. So, I am here to help the people important to me and those around me. I’m here with a helping hand, so lean on me.