What the World Needs Now Is Not Lysol
In 1998 Dionne Warwick released a song titled "What the World Needs Now Is Love." It is what the world has always needed and will continue to need. But in a time like this when store shelves are emptying, and toilet paper has become a hot commodity, we need a good dose of love and with a sweet side helping of compassion.
I have watched in the last week, as COVID-19 has grabbed our attention and sent our nation into a panic, the ability for us to be compassionate and kind go entirely off the radar. I have seen snarky comments on social media about people stockpiling hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Why toilet paper I don't know exactly, but it isn't my place to judge anyone who feels anxious over what they hear in the news. There was one post that someone felt was worth reposting that was blaming teachers for not having students wash their hands every two hours and asking why Lysol can't just be sprayed all over the schools.
When we panic, we don't think clearly, and we don't always make the best decisions, and it is easy to panic right now. I am not usually an anxious person. My husband does not even know what the word "anxious" means. When I mentioned Wednesday night that my school might close for two weeks, he smiled and said, "Anywhere you want to go? Anything you want to do with your time off?" This is how we live, my children, and I. Even if we wanted to panic, we wouldn't get too far. I sent him a photo Friday morning from the grocery store of the bare shelves where toilet paper once sat. His response? "That's hilarious!" Under different circumstances, I would have agreed. Still, as anxiety started to move up through my chest with each aisle, seeing shelves empty and people looking severe and concerned; my own normally calm demeanor started to crack. I found myself throwing non-perishable items into my cart at random. Canned soup, cookies, frozen foods, all things I don't buy regularly but something I thought we should have "just in case." The last time I did this may have been during the snowstorm that knocked out power for over a week. I still have the cream of mushroom soup in my pantry. I don't even know what to do with cream of mushroom soup. As I got in line to check out with my cart burgeoning with canned goods, an older gentleman came up behind me. His gait was slow and uneven, his hands shaking slightly, and his grocery cart had about five items in it. Four were frozen dinners. And suddenly, my anxiety melted away.
I am not at risk. My healthy family isn't in the category of being at risk. This gentleman perhaps is. And by the look of his cart, he may live alone. I told him to go in front of me since I was preparing for the apocalypse of being home with three children for two weeks. He smiled, grateful. I explained I was on the cusp of being with my children with no school and no activities. He laughed and said," And there is no alcohol in that cart?" He was kind and calm, and I immediately felt better. He placed his hand gently over mine and said: "God bless you." All I did was let him go in front of me in line. His demeanor and non-judgment helped me step outside of myself and find some peace. He did more for me at that moment than I did for him.
The writer, commentator, and Biblical scholar Karen Armstrong talks about bringing compassion back into the forefront of our lives in her book "12 Steps to a Compassionate Life," published in 2011. She was the winner of the TED prize in 2008, and her wish was to have the world help her create The Charter for Compassion, bringing back the Golden Rule. She says, "Compassion is aptly summed up in the Golden Rule, which asks us to look into our hearts, discover what gives us pain, and then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anybody else. Compassion can be defined, therefore, as an attitude of principled, consistent altruism."
We need compassion in our lives. We need to practice compassion the way a musician practices their instrument. It doesn't always come easy, and when bad news inundates us and panic sets in, it does become even harder to worry about your neighbor. Social media doesn't help, and 24-hour news channels don't help. What does help is stepping outside of ourselves and seeing the parent concerned for their child—seeing the child who is worried about their elderly parent. Understanding the fear of someone who already deals with anxiety. My mother always said, "what goes around, comes around." When you share your compassion and your kindness, you put energy in motion—Positive, lovely energy that can you can feel.
If you begin to feel anxious about social distancing or running out of supplies, try going for a walk in the woods, snuggle with your kids on the couch and watch something funny. Read a book, call a friend, check on your elderly neighbor. Share your compassion and share your grace. Offer your empathy and maybe your hand sanitizer. In the words of the excellent Dionne Warwick, what the world needs now is love, sweet love. And a few rolls of toilet paper wouldn't hurt.
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