My pantry is stocked to the gills of food with more boxes of jumbo oats then I know what to do with. And my family doesn’t even like this brand. But between work and wondering how I will survive being cooped up with my family and home schooling my kids for the unforeseeable future, there was limited time to be picky.
The hoarding and stress certainly have not brought out the best in many of us as a society. But even with all the uncertainty and Doomsday predictions, I find a more positive aspect of human nature emerging, one where communities are coming together in the face of uncertainty.
I am a strong believer in the power of communities, where neighbors look out for one another. In our neighborhood in Tel Aviv, we have set up a Facebook group that is organizing volunteers from each building to look out for its residents. I am the designated volunteer for our building, and with other volunteers we pool together to see who needs help – it can be an elderly couple who can’t get out to shop, a mother with three young children at home who needs a helping hand, someone with diabetes who needs medicine, or someone who is in self-quarantine and needs supplies. My belief in community also prompted me to start a Facebook group called “Corona days together – יחד בקורונה” to provide a resource of on-line activities, ideas and inspiration for all of us to connect while confined to our homes. Soon to be launched will also a website “www.CoronaTime.wix.com” where I hope to provide a community where people can connect from all over the world via pictures and videos and lessen the isolation. Why should anyone be alone in this period ?- even if they are in isolation? There is so much strength in community and connecting.
Religious communities are also pulling together and reaching out to their members. Our synagogue is organizing a roster of volunteers to help people in self-quarantine who need meals delivered, or any other kind of support during these trying times.
Then there is the home community – the forced “family time” this pandemic is creating. In normal times, I would have said, “Oh no, anything but that!” Anything but having to listen to hear my teenage daughter screaming that she wants to go out at 11 p.m. on a Thursday night because it’s the norm, or my younger son complaining that I won’t pay NIS 60 for some game on his iPad to get more points so he can buy more players.
But we are not living in normal times these days. It feels more like being stuck at home during a snow storm where there is nothing else you can do but just be together. There is something bonding about all this. Let’s be honest, when was the last time in our crazy schedules that we could have a movie night at home with everyone, popcorn and all? When was the last time we got to play a board game or bake together with our kids?
There is even time to reorganize all our cupboards and closets, something we have put off forever. Famed Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo would be proud of me. Now with time on my hands, I can actually clean up the whole house, even get the kids involved and finally have them clean their rooms.
But more importantly, because of the situation, we are actually talking to our kids, especially to try and explain the situation and allay their fears. This requires openness, honesty and love. Yes, I fear that my kids will want to watch their screens 24/7, but I think even that will wear off and human interaction (with a little parental guidance) will prevail.
I don’t relish the idea of entering this weird phase of my life, but I see it as a phase, and I believe we will get through it. And what will help us is connecting to each other and connecting to those in isolation, not by logging onto to Netflix for the next month but by remembering that once the fear and anxiety goes down a notch, empathy sets in. We are all individuals experiencing the same thing. The more we listen, talk, support and connect to each other, the better we will feel and the more we will feel in control.