We have witnessed many things in the past week.
Things that no one from our generation has experienced before.
These range from the frightening to the almost comedically unbelievable.
A rapidly multiplying virus that has killed more than 7,000 and infected more than 179,000 across the globe, including a fast-growing number in Minnesota. Schools and businesses shuttered due to government decree in an effort to stem the spread. Rows upon rows of empty shelves in big box retail stores where toilet paper used to reach the ceiling. Empty aisles where bread and other staples normally reside in grocery stores.
Never having faced a global pandemic the likes of COVID-19 in our lifetimes, it might be somewhat understandable that we don’t know quite how to react to this threat. We Americans are a hearty bunch. When threatened, we like to take action. And, by golly, if stocking up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer is the action we can take, that is what we are going to do.
Of course, the pictures get uglier. Like the stories of “entrepreneurs” who hoarded thousands of bottles of sanitizer, gambling on shortages of the stuff, which would allow them to sell it on digital markets at prices well above sanity level, gouging frightened, overreacting consumers.
But there was one image from the past week on which we prefer to dwell. It is, we believe, the example that will help us all get through this.
It’s the story of Rebecca Mehra, a 25-year-old woman in Bend, Oregon, who, on her way into a grocery store, encountered an elderly couple sitting in their car. The couple, in their 80s, according to Mehra, cracked a window on their car and tearfully asked for help. The first case of coronavirus had been announced in the city, and because of the threat it presents to older people, the couple were afraid to go into the store. They needed supplies, and they had no family nearby who could shop for them.
Mehra agreed to help, taking the woman’s handwritten shopping list and a $100 bill into the store and emerging with most of the items — aside from toilet paper and some cleaning supplies which were sold out. She loaded the items in the couple’s car, gave them their change and sent them on their way.
Her only regret — she didn’t give the couple her phone number, so they could get in touch if they needed help again.
“Most people I know would have done the same thing I did,” Mehra told USA Today. “I was just in the right place at the right time.”
We believe she’s right. And that’s the challenge for us all during these difficult times, which still look like they could get worse before they get better.
Remember our humanity.
No matter how scared we might be, or how caught up in the news of the day — through small action or large — we can make a difference in someone else’s life.
Maybe it’s checking in with an elderly neighbor to see if they need supplies or assistance.
Or maybe it’s as simple as calling someone who’s shut themselves in until the threat passes. A friendly voice on the other end of the line can do wonders for a person’s mental and physical health.
We’ve seen discussion on some local Facebook group pages along these lines. People wondering how they can help, and who needs help.
Caring more about each other. It could the most important action we can take to find our way back to normal.