By Kyle Glatz
Millions of lives have been completely upended in the last few weeks as a result of COVID-19. Schools have been shut down, unemployment has skyrocketed, and fear has seeped into communities throughout the world. Some people are acting selfishly out of panic by hoarding supplies while others are hoping to profit off the misfortune of others.
It’s easy to feel hopeless in times like these. After all, we’ve witnessed a startling level of incompetence and indecisiveness in our leaders’ approach to the outbreak. As of March 27th, a relief stimulus package has just now been approved, almost two weeks after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. We don’t have bold leadership to rally around, either; there is no Lincoln or FDR to pin our hopes on.
So, if we can’t count on our leaders, where do we find hope in times like these? Part of me wants to say find it wherever you can, even if it’s a fictional character’s quotes. But, passing around memes featuring insightful quotes and storybook endings wouldn’t necessarily be true or helpful at the moment.
Instead, I’m going to settle for Mr. Rogers and his oft-quoted idea that we should “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
If you want to peel your eyes away from the bombardment of horror stories and consume the comfort food version of hope, then you can certainly take those words to heart. Plenty is happening around the country that shows why we should have some faith that we’ll pull through this crisis.
For every story of toilet paper hoarding on the front page of the news, I’ve read three more accounts of people going above and beyond to help their neighbors. They’re picking up groceries for older people, keeping small businesses afloat by safely patronizing them, and doing the most important thing in the areas with many cases of the virus- staying home and avoiding people even if it is to their detriment. Call it reckless optimism, but I believe that most people are going to do the right thing when I hear stories of people being kind and generous in times like these.
Still, I think if you really want to find hope during a crisis like this, it’s important to take a grown-up approach to the advice that Mr. Rogers provided to children. That was the intended audience for his quote, after all. It’s not good enough to sit back and look at the positive things that are happening amidst the chaos and come away satisfied.
Creating a sense of hope requires action. Relishing in the good deeds of others is nice, but it’s like passing around a donation plate, seeing it has a few dollars and passing it along without adding to it. Every adult, young and old, can contribute to this problem in some way. Otherwise, we’ll all sit around looking at the same news stories and memes with diminishing returns.
Simply put, you can find hope by showing it to others. Be the example that others need to see to feel hopeful. Sacrifice some of your time to check in on elderly family members in the community and see if there is a way to get them food without risking a trip to a crowded market. Petition local businesses to make it easier to abide by social distancing and encourage others to do the same in their towns.
You can even donate to funds that will help feed first responders and other people on the front line in the fight for normalcy in our lives. It might be somewhat disruptive to your life to take part in some of these actions. You should keep in mind that we don’t have an end date for this virus, though. People are already overburdened, and things could get worse. But as long as we don’t give in to despair, I think we have a good chance of getting through this and getting back to our normal lives.
If you’re trying to find hope, then you have two choices. You can either revel in the actions of others, or you can do something impactful and inspiring for others.