Kindness and the Pandemic

Photo by Andrea Tummons

The pandemic is a mirror. Our best and worst, revealed with piercing clarity.

A philosopher once said, more than 250 years ago, that man will regret a small injury to himself — even the loss of “his little finger” — more than if “the great empire of China . . . was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake,” a “horror” to which he’d “snore with the most profound security.”

Was he right?

Consider the daily death tracker on CNN. The higher it gets, do we feel any worse? Or just become numb?

And notice what lurks beneath the CNN death tracker. It’s a stock market tracker. We can choose which one to care about.

But that same philosopher also marveled at men who “sacrifice[d] their own interests to the greater interests of others.”

Kindness is a choice. And it is ours to make.

Today, it’s our health care workers. They risk their lives for us, every day.

And it can be each of us too — like when wearing a mask, not to protect ourselves, but for the grocery store worker who has no choice but to serve us.

Our hearts go out to those who’ve lost their jobs due to the virus, but, once the pandemic is over, will their plight become their own fault again — transforming them from victims into deadbeats? And what about African Americans disproportionately harmed by the virus? Racial injustice is a four-hundred-year-old wound that won’t fully heal if we notice it only in the harshest of lights.

A personal story about kindness. I recently had a blood clot and was sent to the hospital for tests. It was scary because the virus is causing strokes in the young and healthy. But I was turned away because my doctor didn’t have privileges there (I was three hours from home). Then, an intake worker overheard me sarcastically tell a friend on my cell, “I guess I’ll just go home and have my stroke there.” She burst into tears. I walked over and told her not to worry, that it wasn’t her fault, that it was just the system. She shook her head and, fighting through tears, told me she would fix it.

She did. She didn’t know me, but she cared. And it turned out I was okay. The clot was in a vascular side street, not a deep vein.

We will be okay too, but only if we take the time to care. It is a choice, for each of us.

John Moot is a lawyer who represents victims of domestic violence in obtaining restraining orders. His upcoming novel VIRTUE will be published on August 4th, 2020.

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