March is here, and we’re still struggling with COVID-19, the worst pandemic to strike our world since Polio made life miserable for millions of people, especially children and young people. I remember reading magazines filled with pictures of children in iron lungs, large machines that augmented the muscles involved in breathing. I lived on a homestead in the interior of Alaska, so I didn’t come into contact with many people; the infection didn’t really find us. By the time we moved to the city of Anchorage, Dr. Salk had invented the vaccine for polio.
However, several friends had survived the virus. Annie remembered her mother putting her and her three siblings to bed one night. Only Annie woke up; her sister and two brothers died and she lived in an iron lung for about seven years. Another good friend was partially paralyzed from the waist down; she walked with two canes.
As I said in a previous column, I’m worried that, as a society, we have become “germ-phobic,” so hung up on disinfecting and distancing ourselves that we’ve lost our human connections. I’ve also realized that terrible riots and looting have sprung up, that many cities have developed a crowd mentality; they’ve ceased to be responsible for vandalism, looting, even murder.
Although living in a largely rural community seems to help people be more thoughtful, isolation and loneliness is still very prevalent. Too many people seem to forget that we’re all together in this world turned upside down. My friends and I, including family members and consistent, admirable readers of my columns, spend quite a bit of time discussing how we cope on an individual basis.
A state senator, Evan Vickers, quoted Ezra Taft Benson, “Pride is concerned with who is right, humility is concerned with what is right.” Senator Vickers went on to discuss realities of COVID-19 in his weekly update that runs in some Southwestern Utah publications.
A friend told me that she wished people would simply be kind and stop worrying about who is right or wrong (arguments tend to get more strident and even vicious during elections—especially national elections). She had an unpleasant encounter when she made a small mistake when pulling out onto a main highway. An oncoming car had to shift into the left lane to avoid a collision. The car laid on the horn in a rude way. Unfortunately, a few minutes later she saw the couple at the gas station where she stopped to fill up. My friend apologized, but the woman was irate and yelled that my friend shouldn’t be allowed to drive—she was “too stupid to be behind the wheel.”
Yes, my friend had made a mistake in misjudging how fast the oncoming traffic was going. But, really, all the yelling and rude behavior was way out of proportion to the incident. My friend was upset and sad. I was upset too when she told me about it. In fact, I discussed the incident with my sister and we both agreed that no matter what happens we need to give the person who bothers or upsets us the scenario that we would want if we do something that offends somebody else. We need to be empathetic with others. If someone cuts us off and zips into a parking place we had our eyes on, we can relax and think “maybe they’re hurrying to get a critical prescription filled.” If a friend offers to help us with a project on a particular day but fails to show up when he said he would, we can decide that something more important must have come up. Anger and other negative feelings are hard on our physical and mental health–they will eventually take a toll if we don’t use every means to displace them with positive or happy thoughts.
There has been a great deal of scientific information that proves our thoughts determine our health. Reading or watching humorous material has an immediate impact on our brains. Doing something nice for someone else causes our brains to release serotonin, the “feel good” chemical.
As we continue struggling with this pandemic, let’s all decide to practice kindness in words and deeds. Let’s be part of the solution for all the anger and cruelty which is infecting our society along with COVID 19.