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The very best of humanity is already present

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FRED ROGERS used to tell the story, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’"

(By the way, I can’t be the only American who wishes we could bring Fred Rogers back to do a special episode on how to be neighbors during such a time as this).

Who knew that 2020 would be the year when the terms “quarantine” and “social distancing” would become part of our everyday vernacular? 2019 ended with the market shaky, but climbing, and the typical anxiety about the presidential primary season mounting.

These are familiar anxieties, though. We know how to prepare for those. We had no idea how to prepare for the anxiety that would consume us with the crisis of a global pandemic.

Panhandle Slim's portrait of the author
  • Panhandle Slim's portrait of the author

Even writing the words, “global pandemic,” makes me think I’m writing a review of the latest dystopian novel, not our actual reality. And yet, here we are — locked inside our homes or, if we dare get out and about, mindful of keeping a minimum of six feet of distance between human connection.

Fear is very pervasive these days. It’s the natural human condition that both keeps us safe and also drives us into despair when we are overloaded with it.

So how do we combat fear when it’s so pervasive? Put quite simply, we drive out fear with hope.

Psychologically, hope is understood as an emotion characterized by positive feelings about the immediate or long-term future. And in these days when fear seems to be pervasive, maybe we need to fix our eyes on the hope that is quietly all around us — to look for the helpers, as Mr. Rogers would tell us.

Healthcare workers across the country are on the front lines caring and fighting this disease with the two things that have always revolutionized the world of medicine: science and compassion.

Healthcare workers all over Savannah are working long, stressful hours. If you know a healthcare worker, tell them thank you. They are a sign of hope and what the human spirit is capable of.

I have seen countless offers from teachers, who now have an extended time out of the classroom, offering to tutor, teach, and help students and parents alike online. They know how hard it is to help our kids learn — heck, they live that difficulty daily.

Our educational system in Savannah has its struggles, but the dedication of our teachers is NOT one of them. Give thanks for a teacher today.

Local businesses are showing the beauty of the entrepreneurial spirit in full force. Many are putting on creative promotions and incorporating those promotions with care for the new state of social distancing we live in.

Give thanks for a local business today. And give them some of your money, too — they are an important part of the social fabric in Savannah.

I saw numerous social media pictures of past St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. While the holiday was not what we look forward to every year, these posts spoke to a fundamental truth of times of crisis — namely, hope postponed is not hope deferred.

There will be celebrations to come. And for now we can give thanks and live in that active waiting together through the beauty of social media.

Speaking of social media, have you seen the abundance of articles, memes, and stories pointing to the hope all around us? Yes, even the really funny memes about how crazy this quarantine is making us.

We need to laugh and cry over the beauty all around us. And maybe the redemption of social media comes when it’s the vehicle to get this beauty to us while we’re being socially distanced.

Here’s the thing: when we wake up every day we have a choice to make. We can choose to give into the fear and despair and make that our sole focus of the day. That would be an understandable choice because there sure is a lot to worry about these days. But know that such a choice will eventually eat away at your soul and slowly crush your spirit.

Or we can make a different choice. We can consciously choose to seek out the beauty still around us. We can actively choose to be moved by the kindness and goodness and creativity that is being birthed amid the chaos and confusion.

And we can choose to be a part of the good — to help our neighbors, even if at a distance, to support our community, knowing what binds is always strong than what divides us, and to lean into the joy and gratitude that is stronger than the fear and despair, even if it doesn’t always seem so.

It’s Day 3 of this quarantine and I’m ready for something different. I’m ready to look for the helpers and maybe even be one myself. How about you?

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