Kindness as a Staple

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Just about everything has been said about the coronavirus that can be said with knowledge, feeling, or both. One of the biggest challenges is the uncertainty surrounding the virus; that too has been said many times.

But one thing hasn’t been said enough, or I haven’t seen it enough. Part of the stress lies in not knowing whether people around us have it, whether anyone we know is dying of it, whether anyone we know has died. I worry that I will find out months, maybe years, later that someone I know died from it. I worry also that many with the virus are afraid to say anything at all.

The virus carries stigma. Those who admit to having it–or to knowing someone who has it–risk ostracism, blame, and other loss. For their own protection, people keep medical matters to themselves; doctors protect the information too.

So if we want to know what’s going on, we first have to pledge to treat others with staunch kindness, to treat kindness itself as a staple. That requires not just sweetness, but daring too. Those with the virus are not the enemies of the rest; any of us could be one of them one day, and they’re suffering alone.

At this point, as far as I know, no one I know personally has the virus. A friend’s daughter–who lives in London–has it. It’s possible there are others. I am in good health; to my knowledge, my family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and students are well, here, in the U.S., and elsewhere. But I know my knowledge is limited.

I don’t mean in any way that people should start compulsively posting their health status on Facebook, that doctors should start revealing personal information, or that individuals should face pressure to state how they are. No, these would do more harm than good! But maybe it will become possible–or simply necessary–for people to speak without trepidation. Maybe there could be guarantees of job security, housing security, basic services for the ill. Maybe those receiving the news could treat the messengers with honor. That will help us all.

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