Column – The Emily Angle: Show strength, not panic, during the COVID-19 outbreak
For many, the past few weeks mark the most unprecedented time of our lives. The earth seems to have shifted on its axis, and the daily lives of most of us have come screeching to a halt due to the coronavirus threat.
Our phones flood with constant COVID-19 updates, and it is hard to escape the grim reality of this pandemic. It seems surreal to find empty grocery store shelves, bare parking lots, deserted college campuses and office buildings, vacant sports stadiums and unoccupied church pews. Drastic times call for drastic measures.
Social media traffic soars while most planes remain grounded. Businesses are closing, the stock market is plummeting, and the economy is in need of resuscitation. When we finally emerge from the confines of quarantine, life will no doubt appear dramatically different than before.
COVID-19 does not discriminate; it has infected politicians and royalty, healthcare workers and celebrities, the young and old, rich and poor. No one is immune, and no one is certain how long this will last. It has robbed our lives of stability and certainty.
The war we are waging is unlike any we are accustomed to. The weapons of warfare against our “invisible enemy” are subtle: stay at home to save lives.
In times like these, we often begin to believe we are unique in the struggles we face. Though this is true to an extent, we must remind ourselves that terrible times are not unique to us. Pandemics are new to our generation but not to the world.
When the Black Death, or bubonic plague, swept across Europe in the 14th century, it wiped out 60% of the entire continent and lasted for years, according to History Today. In 1918, influenza circulated around the world and killed an estimated 50 million people according to the CDC. History is spotted with accounts of sicknesses that nearly wiped out populations. Thankfully, we are not at this point.
No one alive has faced something quite like this before, and we must remember that our grandparents and great-parents endured two World Wars, the Great Depression and multiple pandemics in their lifetime. They survived and were made stronger.
So will we.
C.S. Lewis wrote “On Living in the Atomic Age” (1948), to address the fears associated with the threat of the atom bomb after World War II. In this quote, replace “atomic bomb” with “coronavirus” for context.
“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.
“In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented. …”
Lewis said the first action in a time like this should be to “pull ourselves together.”
“If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs,” Lewis said.
This is not at all to downplay the severity of our situation. COVID-19 is a serious threat that has claimed thousands of lives, reaped devastation on many families and quickly overwhelmed the healthcare system.
But we cannot let drastic shifts in life lead to pessimism, mass hysteria or crippling fear. Instead, let it lead to improved families, more meals at the dinner table, a desire to lend a hand, a deeper faith in God and a greater appreciation for what matters most.
In the weeks following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, churches were packed, and religion became more prominent nationwide. People grieved and prayed and many became better neighbors and citizens as they weathered tragedy. Out of dire situations like these, good inevitably comes as people realize what matters most and what they can live without.
Camaraderie often results from a shared cause. The hashtag #TogetherApart trends on social media as many seem to be in the fight to end this together. Perhaps times like these only strengthen our resolve to love one another.
In due time, the curve will flatten, the virus will lessen and people will emerge from their homes again. I believe we will be made better neighbors and people because of this. This too shall pass. Be smart, safe, cautious and stay home, but let’s not lose our heads. We will survive this terrible pandemic, and life will go on.
Let us heed the words of Jesus in these trying times, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1).
Wood is the editor-in-chief. Follow her on Twitter.