Having been ordered by Governor Newsom to shelter in place, along with some 80 million Americans by their governors, I diligently tried to order groceries from two apps, which did not work, and various online grocery sites, which were overloaded. So, early on a rainy morning my wife and I ventured out to the market to buy food. What we found there reminded me of one of those sci-fi movies where we humans are being attacked by an alien invader: a hushed store, empty shelves, and frightened people (me included). What I did not expect to find was human kindness.
Staff at grocery stores and pharmacies are no less first responders than other essential services including medical staffs and doctors. In this time of the coronavirus, I was completely unprepared for the kindness the grocery staff showed us.
They obviously knew we were seniors. They insisted I purchase the last bottle of vitamin C, to protect our immune systems. They gave me several packages of hand wipes, and went into their storeroom to find yogurt (yogurt shelves were empty). At checkout, the man ringing up our order said that in the midst of this terrifying epidemic he was where he was suppose to be, doing what he was suppose to be doing. And, I overheard two other staff members talking about being awakened at 3 a.m. and asked if they would come to work. All of these workers were calm and reassuring, something to think about in this “Time of the Virus.”
In the midst of 24/7 newscasts about how the virus is spreading, and the chaos of trying to decipher the different approaches to “social distancing” being imposed by different state officials, there was hope. The kindness of grocery-store employees was a profound reminder that despite the hoarding and fear this epidemic is causing human nature to exhibit, there, like a shining light of hope, was the best part of human nature on display: taking care of one another.
It’s obvious to me that nobody really knows what to do about the virus. It’s new; we’ve never seen it before. It’s silent, invisible, and lethal. The pandemic infection, between writing this piece on March 18 and having it posted it on March 26, rose from 214,894 people to 465,915 worldwide. The deaths went from 8,732 people to 21,031. In that week, U.S. confirmed cases went from 7,769 to 63,570; deaths, from 118 to 884 souls. And, in California, we identified 598 cases then and 3,006 now, and the death toll rose from 17 to 65. These numbers are growing. This is obviously something to be taken very seriously and protect both ourselves and others from.
As we live through this altered reality of “sheltering in place,” I think it would be very therapeutic to, for a moment, stop thinking about ourselves, our families, and the politics surrounding the discussions of how to defeat the virus. Instead, think about how we can all inject a little human kindness into our interactions with our fellow humans. Whether we do this from six feet, on the phone, or in a digital format, in this unique terrifying time, it might just be the best medicine.