This is how fear grows. And where courage rises.

empty shelfLast weekend we went grocery shopping. We got to the store a little early because we were up early like usual and just got going. As we waited in our car, several other people pulled into the parking lot- and then lined up outside the store. The was the first sign that the world we woke up to this morning is not what it was just a few weeks ago.

Then we went in. We actually needed toilet paper, not having preemptively panic bought any. And the picture above is what we encountered. Good thing the toilet paper problem is a solvable one- Though you may not wish to ask how. Unless you get there, when the benefits of that conversation may actually outweigh the drawbacks.

We left that store after finding ourselves buying more then we really needed after getting a bit unnerved by the evidence of scarcity we saw around us. For many of us, this is the first time we have every really encountered any evidence of scarcity. How privileged we have been to have had such an experience. We finished our other errands, with similar experiences, and on our way home looked at one another and acknowledged, “well, that was a little unnerving”.

The following week we were both told to work from home and got set up to do so. Our workplaces began to empty, as did the streets as people seemed to take things more seriously. Many people also began to feel the painful effects of an economy shut down over night- job losses, missed payments, uncertain futures. We felt deeply grateful to remain working.

These last few weeks as things with COVID-19 have increasingly shaped our daily lives, it has felt more and more like we are saying goodbye to what has been, with no surety as to what we are moving toward. It feels a little like waiting for the wave to hit- waiting for the worst to arrive, before we can even begin to consider what might be salvaged.

I am a healthcare worker, and in the midst of this I see the fear in my colleagues eyes. I see their fear for their families’ and for themselves.  I hear them asking for the best protection possible, knowing all the time that with a shortage fo supplies, the best may not be available. And in the middle of that, I see a determination and resolve to do what they can.

As healthcare workers, we do not under normal circumstances expect to put our own health on the line in our daily work. That is the job of soldiers and police, people whose service is long revered due the the sacrifices it requires. For healthcare workers, we expect to work hard for our pay, with the satisfaction that we competently provided an essential service and contributed to the health of our communities. Right now we are being asked to be the frontline in a fight with an invisible enemy, one who can at best sideline us for a time, and at worst demand the ultimate. While we can protect ourselves well for the most part, the evidence of the experience across the world suggests that here too, some healthcare workers will get sick.

I want to applaud my colleagues who are using their fear as an opportunity to grow courage. In this moment in time, there is no one else to do this. It is the healthcare workers who must put themselves in harms way in order to care for the sick. We did not sign up for moments like these, but around the world, people who did not sign up for this are doing it anyway. As we move our way forward through the weeks to come, let’s remember that everyone in our healthcare system is putting their value for caring for others above their fear. The person screening at hospital entry ways, the registration clerk, the porters and linden staff who keep the hospital running, and of course the doctors and nurses caring directly for the sick- all of these people are putting the common good before their own well being.

Outside of healthcare are some other everyday heroes, and they are often more deeply unsung. Every time I go to the grocery store, I am reminded that the staff there are all coming to work at a time it would be safer to stay home, and they are doing it for minimal pay so that the rest of us can access food.  With the acknowledgement that community spread is now occurring in many locations in our country, these folks have contacts daily with people they do not know who may be experiencing symptoms.

So when fear comes calling in us, lets remember to let that fear be the ground courage grows in. And lets thank those people who are doing their part daily, especially when its not what they signed up for.

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