There Are Really Only Two Ways to Respond to this Crisis: Love or Fear.
And yes, we do all have a choice.
Walking into Safeway at 6:30am this morning was surreal. It was dark outside and my headlights were on. The parking lot was nearly full and carts were strewn about the pavement. As I entered the store, I saw a sign pleading with customers to avoid shopping between the hours of 7 and 9am, as this is the time they are doing their best to stock the store.
I felt a little icky walking in at 6:30am, knowing I would likely be adding to the disruption. BUT I ONLY HAVE A HALF A GALLON OF MILK AND ONE DOZEN EGGS AT HOME!
I found myself bee-lining it to the dairy aisle, which typically lands as an afterthought for me at the grocery store, (it’s all about the produce baby!). Not today. I could hear my fear-mind going “oh god I hope they have milk! Should I get two or three half-gallons?”
They did have milk. I took three. And then I looked at the milk and suddenly felt deep disappointment with myself.
Nevertheless, I persisted. I continued walking through the store, doing my best to appear as a calm, normal shopper. On the inside though, I was doing battle. “Get the eggs! You need three dozen!” my fear-fueled mind was screaming. There was a man on his knees doing his best to stock the egg cartons. They were flying off the shelves almost as quickly as he was putting them on. I took two dozen.
“Gross,” says my heart.
I couldn’t ignore the feeling this time, looking at my cart I suddenly felt true and actual shame.
I finally listened, and put back the items I knew I didn’t need, and someone else might.
Then everything changed. I began smiling at people more. A woman asked me where I found the eggs and I directed her. I let an elderly man go in front of me in the checkout line. I thanked the cashier for being there, told her she was a hero, and asked how we, as a community, can make her and her colleagues' jobs easier.
She smiled and told me in the very kindest of ways, that people could consider not going grocery shopping unless they really needed to.
Returnting home with my THIRD grocery haul of the week, (today is Thursday by the way), I couldn’t shake this feeling of disappointment and anger at myself. I woke up at 6am to try and get to the store before anyone else, so that I could get the things I needed before everyone else bought them all up. I think of myself as a helper, so how the hell is this behavior helpful?
The answer: it is not.
The good news is that we as humans always have the option to course-correct and change our behavior. And that is very good news because fast-forward a month from now, or ten years from now, when shit hits the proverbial fan even more than it currently is, I can see each of us finding ourselves in one of two roles: The “how can I helps?” or the “me-firsts.”
The classic American caricature of the “me-firsts” will be an old white man, sitting alone, (maybe with his dog and his stone-faced wife,) on a rocking chair on his front porch. Behind him is a house stacked floor-to-ceiling with “supplies.” There he sits, clutching his rifle, ready to shoot anyone or anything who dares enter his domain. He lives in constant fear and suspicion of everyone. He is miserable, but at least he has a ten year-supply of bottled water and canned tomato soup to keep him company.
Alternatively, there are the “how can I helps?” These are the people we can already see stepping up in big and small ways. The people who ask themselves what they can do for others. Not only are they the healthcare workers, delivery drivers and grocery store workers, (these people better be getting a 10x raise right now), but they are also the people who are simply asking themselves and others, what they can do. They are the people making donations to help those who have been financially impacted, despite feeling insecure about the future of their own income and industry. They are the people who post in groups that they have extra toilet paper, or made a large batch of soup and are willing to deliver it to those who don’t have access.
And let me tell you this, the moment I put back that extra milk, my world began to change. I felt happier, more grateful and connected to the people around me. I smiled, and thanked people, and they did the same back to me. My life became brighter in making the simple, and subtle choice to let love win out over fear.
And at the end of all this, those of us who are willing to come together, serve each other, and ask how we can contribute, will be the winners. Even if we run out of toilet paper in the process.
I don’t know about you, but I would rather look back on my life feeling proud that I gave everything I could to serve others, than to feel resentful and terrified of people taking what I really didn’t need in the first place.