The future looks ever bleaker. The minimum projected death toll is around 100,000. To put that in perspective, it’s more than 33 times the number of deaths on 9/11/01.
Why do I use that as a bench mark? Because it’s an image of collective death a majority of the population can recall and understand. And many people still clearly don’t understand.
In Iowa, the numbers are still relatively low. There have been deaths, however, and with each day, the apathy becomes less excusable. Early on, I got it; the media has a tendency to oversell every little thing. Many of us thought it was a load of alarmist bullshit, myself included.
So to correct our mistakes and counteract the widespread ignorance, many of us post stories about how damaging this illness is. Did you read about the 42-year-old mother of six who had to say goodbye to her children via walkie-talkie? What about the Civil War-esque field hospitals set up in Central Park and New York Harbor?
While it’s important to share the stories and the data to keep ourselves and each other vigilant, we also can’t lose hope. Yes, there are many selfish people being unapologetically terrible, but there are even more people being selfless and helpful and kind. Doctors and nurses are working harder than ever before. (Who thought that was even possible?) Neighbors are checking on each other, small business owners are paying their hourly employees out-of-pocket, and healthy people are putting themselves in harm’s way to protect those who are at greater risk of serious illness or death.
In other words, there have been some unexpected upshots amid this upheaval.
Taking the time to feel gratitude is good for your mental health, so here’s a list of things to be thankful for. I hope everyone can find at least a couple of items on this list that applies to them.
- If you have the privilege of working from home, there’s that. No one makes fun of me for being a writer these days.
- While it may seem catastrophic that so many systems are collapsing, these systems were unacceptably fragile in the first place. Rebuilding them to be stronger and better than before is in everyone’s best interest.[
- Mass public appreciation for the unsung heroes who keep society functional: suppliers, clerks, healthcare workers, teachers, and everyone who maintains our infrastructure.
- Less celebrity worship. The day everyone reamed that cringy “Imagine” video on Twitter was the day I regained my faith in humankind.
- We have no choice but to slow down and have patience. In other cultures, no one does business on a Sunday or works through afternoon nap time. Speaking of which…
- NomoFomo. Everything is canceled and closed. No one is having fun without you.
- Greater public emphasis on mental and emotional as well as physical health. “Practice self-care” is a popular refrain. Be a responsible adult; read a book in a bath with lavender oil and then meditate in solitude. For the good of humanity.
- Relearning to mend and make do. Young adults have been practicing this for over a decade now, but many people still view most commodities as throw-away.
- Spending less $$$. I admit to the occasional impulse buy or “treat” for no good reason. Right now, supply chains need to be free to move essentials – like medicine and diapers – so no more blowing my mad money on kitchen toys I’ll use twice.
- More gardening. Not only do you have more time during the day, but people are using the term “victory garden” again. Digging in the dirt makes you a hero.
- The public has a more supportive attitude in general. If you’re lucky enough to be around reasonable people, you’ll notice their concern for your feelings, health, and safety has skyrocketed. I am literally texting people I haven’t spoken with in months or even years because I know their immune systems are compromised or they live in a major metro area, and I just need to know they’re healthy and safe.
- And, of course, people washing their goddamn hands. That’s pretty awesome.
[†] James Madison was just 24 years old when he organized and facilitated the Philadelphia Convention that gave us the US Constitution. We can do this.