This pandemic is directly affecting our healthcare, economic, and social systems in ways that we could’ve never imagined a year ago. The process of surviving the coronavirus will have lasting effects on how our society functions on every level — from the way we relate to other people and our governing bodies. I understand if your default reaction is fear, isolation, anger, blame, selfishness, or outright panic. You may be facing financial hardship; your living situation may be threatened, or you may not be able to be with your loved ones or continue working and providing value in the way you’ve been doing for most of your life.
Whatever is happening to you is not the fault of any individual or ethnic group. If anything, it is the fault of our ruling parties in the speed of their response time and their personal tendencies to avoid, diminish, and release themselves from responsibility. Anger, blame and defining people as “other” than yourself is not only dangerous but dishonest. All of these reactions are rooted in fear and a need to control the unknown. We are not separate in this struggle, we are not separate in the issues we’re experiencing, or the emotions we’re reckoning with. If anything, this pandemic should be bringing us together, not tearing us apart.
I have no judgment if you’re using COVID-19 to justify any of these behaviors, but I can promise you — these will not guarantee your safety or your peace of mind. They will only cause you and your community more suffering in the longterm. I am not claiming to be exempt from these feelings. I had a similar reaction before I woke up to the many ways that our world is showing up for its citizens at this time, and then I got inspired.
In the past two weeks, I’ve seen government agencies, corporate companies, and individuals rally behind one another, band together, and offer direct help and relief to those who need it most. On March 14th, the House of Representatives passed a coronavirus relief package with the support of President Trump and a vast bipartisan majority of 363–40. On March 20th, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced on Twitter that Tax Day would be pushed from April 15th to July 15th to ease the current burden placed on small businesses and entrepreneurs. On March 15th, Goldman Sachs notified Apple Card customers that they would be waiving March payment deadlines and interest fees for those affected by the virus.
On March 16th, The New York Times published a story detailing the rise of “direct giving,” most commonly through Venmo donations on Twitter, of individuals fundraising on behalf of others asking for help due to economic hardship. Closures of college campuses all across the country are inspiring this type of fundraising for students displaced by fast-turnaround evacuation notices. Local high-schools are graduating their students without finishing their senior year, and Ivy-League universities are migrating many of their courses to free online learning platforms. Businesses are working towards donation-only models to keep their doors open and still service their communities. Neighbors are posting the following messages on local community applications such as Facebook groups and NextDoor:
To me, the only valid response to this outpouring of generosity is to pay it forward.
The antidote to your anxiety is to get into service:
Yes, I’m scared too, but I’m taking heart in what I see others practicing. Now is not the time to be stingy in what we have to offer as individuals, corporations, or lawmakers. This is a time to recognize our personal value, identify what we can offer, and figure out the best way to give it generously. This open-hearted energy is literally in the stars right now.
In this spirit, I believe we must focus more on the solutions available to us than the problems at hand. Anxiety, frustration, and stress are not only unhelpful, but they also prevent us from seeing our challenges for what they are: fleeting opportunities for growth. Fear will make a literal mountain out of your mole-hole, and cloud your brain so fully with worst-case scenarios that you can’t even begin to hear the voice of reason.
For the past year, I’ve made the majority of my money through tutoring and hosting through Airbnb. Both of these income streams have completely dried up in the last two weeks. Did I panic initially? Yes, I did. Then I got creative. To keep my Airbnb space filled, and ensure the safety of myself and my guests, I converted it into a short-term, affordable rental space and advertised it on Craigslist. I filled it within 24 hours of posting the ad.
I also signed up for a professional Zoom.us account, so I could host virtual one-on-one tutoring sessions, courses, and webinars from the comfort of my own home. I offered free intro sessions for families needing educational support, and implemented a sliding scale payment model. In these veins, I can provide a service to my community and still take care of my financial needs — it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
This global phenomenon is also forcing people to reckon with their ideology and values in ways we never have before — and for the better. Know that if you’ve been wrestling with any recurring thought or behavioral patterns, now is the time to reconcile them. I was supposed to go on a 3–week meditation retreat in India with my mother this month, which was canceled a week before we left due to the coronavirus. Of course, I was disappointed, but I realized that I’d been relying on this trip to provide an antidote to my self-doubt. An antidote that I could’ve provided to myself from the beginning.
I’ve been training for the past six months to become a life coach, and this is the first time that I’ve been able to see what I have to offer as a service, not as an ask. I have peppered myself with excuse after excuse of why I’m not reaching out to people and offering free coaching sessions — “I need more time to learn,” “I don’t have it all figured out yet,” “I need my life to be perfect before I help others,” etc. I know now that this was my fear talking, not my love. I was afraid of failing, afraid of getting “no,” after “no,” and making up stories about what that would mean for my coaching career.
Once I was able to calm my anxiety, I was able to finally see coaching for what it is — a gift of unconditional love — and treat it as such. I asked publicly and privately how I could help my friends, my family, and my community, because I know I’m not the only one in need, and I have more resources available than many do at this time.
No matter who you are, I know you have something to offer your friends, family, neighbors, and community at large that will not only serve them but will also take care of your needs. No matter what you want to call it — karma, give and take, treat others as you’d like to be treated, etc., the idea is the same. This is truly a time of self-responsibility, where we must get creative about how we can be of service and give more in order to get more. That is how we get through this pandemic with our relationships, our community, and our world, intact, and better than it was before.