For the past couple of days I’ve gotten outside for a walk. Yes, a walk. Remember those?
In spite of the powerful COVID threat, in my very small mountain town there’s no government order yet in place prohibiting getting some fresh air and sunshine on a public street.
On all the walks I was careful to keep from six-to-ten feet between me and anyone else. It wasn’t difficult given that there were hardly any people and those that were out were doing their part, too.
What was difficult was that it’s clear that no one knows how to act.
Somehow #keepyourdistance has morphed from an issue of physical proximity to one of emotional withdrawal where folks seem disinclined to say hello any more, and worse, to not even head nod in basic human acknowledgement.
There’s a subtle air out there that cheerfulness itself carries risk.
But it doesn’t.
Fear Fear Itself
I don’t begrudge folks. It’s scary right now, and we all want to do our part to support the protocols that will flatten the curve and get us back to normal ASAP.
But fear is also a powerful contagion.
Fear can be for good or for ill. Healthy fear makes us cautious, prudent, and judicious. And unhealthy fear has an irrational aspect, making us panic, see threats everywhere, and close ourselves off beyond what is reasonable.
So let me remind you of another powerful contagion: A smile, and saying hello.
They’re viral in the best possible way.
You can say hello from 10 feet away. You can wave. You can smile a toothy “cheese” or a polite closed mouth grin-and-nod from six-to-ten feet away and it’s not going to give you coronavirus and it’s not going to spread it to anyone else.
Keep Calm and Smile On
Let’s make sure that even as we practice social distancing in places where that’s necessary, and temporary social isolation and separation in denser spots where that’s necessary, that we keep the contagion of kindness, love, and good will alive.
When this whole thing’s all over, it’s the good will that we’ll have to build on. Let’s nurture it now, as if it were as much threatened as our health.
In the meantime, in the Northern Hemisphere it’s spring.
See the bulbs bursting through and opening their sweet heads. See the flowering trees and riotous shrubs. Let your eyes glory in the delights.
And breathe in deeply. Open your lungs. Daffodils aren’t carriers. Neither are Lily of the Valley.
— Lady Virginia