Kindness, empathy and the coronavirus

It is very important right now to please respond to each other with kindness and empathy. Please refrain from telling younger generations to ‘put on their big kid pants’ and stop whining about the so-called insignificant events that are getting cancelled or postponed due to the current coronavirus crisis. That whole ‘Suck-It-Up Buttercup’ attitude did not work well on us GenXers; it’s pointless to believe it will work on our kids.

For some, that concert, that rodeo, that trip, or that Broadway show was the only thing getting them through the day. Maybe you’ve never been that person who didn’t take their own life because Peter Jackson was still making Lord of the Rings movies. For me, it wasn’t the movie itself, but the countdown… the reminder that I made it through one more day, and if I could just hold on until December 9th, I would be okay.

With the coronavirus, that countdown has suddenly been yanked out from under them. Their already uncertain future just became that much more unstable, and that’s definitely a frightening situation.

Regardless of where we are in our life, we need to remember that it is okay to grieve. It’s natural and healthy, and suggesting otherwise is not a response from empathy. For those on the shaming side of the argument, rest assured they are not only grieving for their missed concert or spring break trip, but for the looming question marks of employment, of worry for their family members, for the fact that they don’t have enough money to stockpile canned goods because they budgeted for plane tickets and hotel rooms, money that was already spent and they can’t get a refund in time to buy a stash of toilet paper.

Also, what upsets you might not be what upsets them… You may be frustrated that you can’t get your car maintenance done or you have to reschedule your house repairs. All very important things, but no less significant than the high school basketball season, especially if you had a scholarship riding on it. Empathy allows us to look at things from another’s point of view and see what it’s like in their world. When we try to do that, we can see that it’s not the disappointment surrounding the event itself, but all the unknowns over which we have no control.

A more positive response is to tell them it’s okay to grieve. We have also never experienced anything like this, and it is frightening. But we’ll get through this together. We are not alone.

Humans are complex creatures. We can (and should) mourn these large-scale happenings while simultaneously weeping for the small ones. We can grieve for Italy and for South by Southwest, all at the same time. We can continue to support each other, because that’s the best way for us to survive.

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