The first lesson I learned from this pandemic was the importance of self-care. Adding a bouquet of flowers to my cart when I’m grocery shopping, taking the time to re-read a favorite book, or just putting on make-up even when I know no one is going to see it underneath my face mask, can work wonders on my spirit. Keeping as many of my normal routines as possible and indulging in the little things that bring me joy are great coping mechanisms that make this whole situation so much more bearable.
But while the benefits of self-care may have been the first lesson I learned, it isn’t the most important one. Yes, taking care of myself as best I can, both emotionally and physically, is a very good thing. But what’s even more important right now is remembering to also take care of other people–those who are close to me and even the people I don’t know at all. Because the truth is we’re all feeling very stressed these days, so anything and everything we can do to help each other isn’t just appreciated, it’s also necessary.
Sadly, many people seem to be taking their anger and frustration out on each other, in either direct or indirect ways. Memes on social media that ridicule or chastise people we disagree with are becoming more common and more vicious. I see examples of selfish driving (blowing through red lights, cutting off other drivers, etc.) and sometimes even road rage almost every time I’m in my car. Those of us who still read newspapers can’t help but notice that the letters to the editor almost all seem angry and full of accusations, but very short on actual solutions.
All this is doing is making a bad situation even worse. Now is not the time to pour gasoline on the burning fires of our collective frazzled nerves. Now is the time to offer the cooling waters of patience, wisdom, and most of all, compassion. And no gesture is too small to make a difference. We never know what’s going to turn the tide for someone else and make them feel a little less stressed or a little less alone. It can be as simple as a smile from a stranger, or an offer to let someone with only a few items go ahead of you in the check out line. These days, people need to see evidence of the positive side of human nature as often as they can.
And the best part is, when we make the decision to try to help someone else cope with these crazy times, we discover that we’re also helping ourselves. Doing even a small act of kindness makes us feel less powerless and more hopeful because it reminds us that we have the ability to make a positive impact on others.
Hard times have always brought out both the worst and the best in people. But I believe that when we are intentional about being our best selves, we usually find that the times don’t seem quite so hard.