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How our family hopes to respond to the coronavirus pandemic

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Mid-afternoon I received the text, “School administration announces closure beginning today for the next three weeks.”

With the coronavirus swirling around the country, I wasn’t surprised by the message; it seemed closure was inevitable. Nevertheless, I panicked upon hearing the news. Three weeks with my four sons at home could provide some challenges. Mentally, I counted the hours (and minutes) of together time.

Lots and lots of together time.

While we weren’t particularly low on any pantry staples or produce items, I beelined to the nearest grocery store. Hitting the grocery store seemed like the responsible thing to do. After all, when snowstorms have threatened our home, we Midwesterners know the grocery store is a necessary first step in preparedness. Surely pandemic readiness works the same way.

I pulled into the congested grocery store parking lot and found a lone spot (seemingly) miles away from the store. I raced into the store and snagged a single deserted cart. Then, I bolted towards the aisles.

The store teemed with people pushing jam-packed carts. A sense of alarm and urgency radiated from each shopper. Pretty soon, my expression and temperament mirrored the masses. I was edgy, frenzied, and distressed.

As I turned into the spaghetti sauce aisle, I noticed a wheelchair bound woman reaching for a box of pasta. She struggled to grasp a package that sat inches away from her reach.

“I should help her,” my inner voice nudged as I took in the scene.

But I had so many items to purchase. There were so many people in the store, and the shelves already looked ransacked.

Time is of the essence. You don’t have time to help, I told myself as I drifted by the woman without offering a hand.

When I wandered into the next aisle, a felt a wave of regret over my decision to bypass the woman. I slowed my card down and returned back to the spaghetti sauce aisle. I spotted the woman at the end of the aisle with the pasta box in hand. I wondered who had stopped to help.

After I completed my shopping and left the store, I couldn’t stop thinking about my choices in the store. While I realized I couldn’t change my initial reactions, I vowed to move forward differently. I ruminated on that ways my family could respond in this season of uncertainty.

I pledged to move our family into the next weeks with these objectives in mind.

1) We will look for ways to encourage and support others

With so much fear and unease in the world, our seemingly small actions have the opportunity to make big impacts. We can offer smiles to the people at the grocery and the pharmacy. We can send out texts to neighbors, widows, and others who may be feeling lonely and isolated. We can offer encouraging words or merely ask others how they are feeling.

2) We will look for people to serve

We’ve heard so many stories of those impacted by the virus. A friend mentioned the effects of school closures on kids facing food insecurity. I know seniors in our community who need someone to provide groceries and other supplies. We have friends who need help with childcare or rides for their children while they work. As a family, we can provide foodstuffs, delivery, babysitting, and helping hands.

3) We will be mindful of how this is impacting everyone

When we are tempted to wallow in our upended life, we are mindful of the many who are sick and fighting the virus. We remember some are mourning the loss of loved ones. We think about the businesses and jobs hit hard at this time. We recognize that many healthcare workers are risking their own health to fight on the pandemic’s frontlines.

4) We will see this time as an opportunity

Three weeks of together time seems daunting, but these hours can be a gift. We are going to explore ways to use the time well. We’re going to try cooking, home maintenance projects, and new exercise programs. We’re going to clean out closets and dig into spring cleaning. And yes, we may watch a few hours of Netflix, but at least we will do it together.

I always tell my kids “when you can’t control the situation, you can control your reaction.” This same truth applies to the world right now. We can’t control the pandemic, but we can control how we respond.

For our family, we vow to move forward with an eye towards others and opportunities along the way.

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