Friends, it’s a bit scary out there right now. Stores are running out of essential items like hand sanitizer and toilet paper. People are being encouraged to work remotely, and schools are being cancelled. Travel, retail, and entertainment industries are all feeling the effects as citizens around the world grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed. Most of us have never experienced anything like this. Our day-to-day functioning is being shut down and we don’t know how long it will last. So now we must adjust to this new reality that is unfamiliar, and a future that feels completely unpredictable. Let’s just take a minute to sit with that. It is unnerving.
However, this is not the first scary thing in our lives, and, spoiler alert my dear readers, it won’t be the last. It is our job to figure out how to handle this challenge as it proceeds. C.S. Lewis was so insightful when he wrote about the atomic bomb. His advice can fit any sort of crisis, including our current one. He reminds us that we are still human, not scared sheep. While our crisis is new, it is not unique, and we must “keep calm and carry on.” Each of us was born with a death sentence, but COVID-19 doesn’t mean we now need to spend our days wondering if this is it.
Instead, we should invest our time adjusting to this new normal and figuring out what is best for our family, community, and world.
As always, we can look to Mister Rogers for wisdom as we are struggling with these changes:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
— Fred Rogers
These moments can lead to panic, but they can also lead to great moments of generosity. From big corporations to individual people, there are already examples of those who are ready to do what it takes to provide for others during this time of uncertainty. Social media is full of these unexpected leaders.
For example, educational companies are offering free resources to help with kids being off school.
Then there is this amazing tattoo studio that really got creative when it came to sharing their talents:
Or this story from 19 News in Cleveland about an NBA superstar who came through in the clutch:
We are seeing this on a small scale as well.
Right away, moms take charge and do what they typically do… be awesome. Can I just take a moment to say how much moms rock? They might disagree on formula vs breast, co-sleeping vs cry it out, etc. but when times get hard, they have each other’s backs. Check out this awesome momma:
There have been plenty of other unsung heroes as well. One gentleman bought a trunkful of toilet paper and posted on Facebook that it was available, free of charge, for any elderly people who need some (and his snide comment at the end shows that we don’t have to be perfect to be able to help). Various community groups are working together to make sure that kids who normally receive free or reduced lunches still have food to eat. Individuals are posting on community websites that they can help babysit for little or no charge. Right now, there are so many examples of people using social media to do something generous and beautiful.
So, what can you do?
- Keep hospitals from being overrun: Quarantine yourself if you have any cold symptoms, and only go to the hospital if it is a medical emergency. There will still be strokes, babies being born, and car accidents. Hospitals will not be able to handle these “normal cases” if they are overrun by low-risk COVID-19 cases.
- Slow the spread of this virus: Stay home when possible, practice social distancing (6+ feet) when in public, wash your hands (20-30 seconds), and when in public, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer every hour (washing is more effective). This isn’t about you. Most of us are low risk. We need to protect those who are at risk, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
- Share your resources: Can you get groceries for someone who is quarantined? Can you watch a kid who is off from school but has a parent who has to go to work, like a nurse? Is there someone who has been laid off that could use some extra help? Write letters or color pictures for the elderly who are isolated in nursing homes.
- Donate Blood: As we are preparing for this public health emergency, hospitals still require a stable supply, which is already low.
- Think long-term: Find ways to continue fueling the economy. Support your local businesses. One way to do this could be buying gift cards or tipping generously on takeout food. Try to find ways to keep money moving.
- Be human: For this, we turn to the Italians who give us a wonderful example of this even amidst self-isolation <3
Now is the time to decide who you will be during the COVID-19 pandemic. Don’t be reactionary. Figure out what you can do to make this a time we are proud of, a time where we sacrificed and showed strength. Make Mister Rogers proud!
Because real leaders don’t hoard toilet paper; they share resources.
Jacquelyn Adams, an IEEE Senior member, is a nationally-recognized leader in employee learning and development. Jacquelyn is the CEO and Founder of Ristole, a consulting business that transforms corporations through engaging employee training. Find more of her Lessons on Leadership columns here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.