I sometimes, okay often, actually just a hair above always, beat myself up about my introvertedness. I don’t think that’s a word; it should be. I wilt in friendly gatherings. I have no genetic predisposition for small talk. I struggle to breathe in large crowds. Turns out, I was just in training my whole life for a battle with the coronavirus. I’m very busy patting myself on the back.
That is my attempt to smile in all this madness. I refuse to give ink time to stories of hoarding and greed. Instead, I am piling up happy stories, acts of random kindness, those extending thoughtfulness. The stories are everywhere and I’m pulling them in close to me as I ride this thing out that feels a bit like white water rafting with a blindfold on.
To cheer myself up I watched A Beautiful Day in The Neighbourhood and it worked. Fred Rogers aimed each day to interact with the world with kindness first. He developed tools to help him with that: swimming and playing the piano to release any anger or frustration he might be feeling. He didn’t consider himself a celebrity or a hero of any sorts, nor did he think he was perfect, but he inspired all who watched him to be better versions of themselves. Fred Rogers was human, was aware of his own shortcomings and worked with those shortcomings as opposed to ignoring them.
Next on the list is to find stories of neighbours helping neighbours, of strangers helping strangers and looking for opportunities where I can jump in. There is no shortage of ignorance, of those who think they can travel at will because they are not at risk, without considering those at risk to whom they may carry this wretched virus. I love the stories of people in my daughter’s Surrey neighbourhood leaving supplies outside the door of elderly residents, those who have no one they can call upon for help. Getting paid is the last thing on these Good Samaritans’ minds, but instead adopting the stance that it will all come out in the wash. Of visiting elderly parents through the window of their care home, chatting on the phone while having a cup of coffee seated in a lawn chair outside. That story makes me smile right down to my toes.
I was at the grocery store the other day and the majority of the carts held modest amounts of supplies, just what was needed. The fellow in front of me at the checkout said he needed toilet paper but didn’t want to buy any for fear of being grouped with the “crazies”. We laughed and exchanged happy stories, letting the elderly man behind us go ahead. We inquired of the check-out person as to how her day was going and if she was tired. She said there were very few horror stories of people emptying shelves for their own purposes. That was comforting. We wished each other luck, wiped down the credit card keypad and carried on.
We won’t hear the many positive stories of people coming together to do their part in limiting the spread. I read this giggled announcement: “This is your pilot speaking. I’m working from home today.” That one cracked me up. Or the post from a Tom Hanks fan who wrote: “He has already survived a World War, being stranded on an island, being stranded at an airport, a failed moon landing, an emergency flight landing on the river and a ship hijacking.” Surely, he can survive the coronavirus, too.
Some say we shouldn’t make light of such dire straits. Maybe it’s the best time to share a hearty laugh. There’s nothing better than laughing until your insides hurt. I’m pretending it’s a spring blizzard from childhood, the roads are closed, we’re hunkered in, building forts under the dining room table, having popcorn, playing games, and feeling like very lucky children. I’ll put my feet up, pick up another book I’ve been meaning to read, and I will count my blessings. We’re all in this together. Be safe.