Our Response is a Choice

I watch the steam roll off my morning coffee as the dawn continues to engulf the sky. A new day has begun, as it always does. But it’s a different world I am waking to.

The steam curls and tumbles from the heat of my cup and as I mesmerizingly watch it fall over the sides or rise and dissipate into the air, my mind drifts, much like the steam, to Covid-19.

My Grandparents are currently holidaying in Port Macquarie, celebrating their 69th Wedding anniversary. That’s a pretty impressive milestone. I called them yesterday because they are both in their early 90’s (and yes still driving and going on holidays) and I was worried about them. I was concerned that they would be full of fear. I was concerned that they may be too afraid to go outside. Concerned they didn’t have enough toilet paper or hand sanitiser or pasta. I was concerned they would be isolated. Instead, they were sitting on a patio, overlooking the ocean, enjoying the chocolate covered strawberries the hotel had provided them and talking about how they were going to save $10 a day if they didn’t get housecleaning. “I’ll just go across the street and get a can of Glenn-20 and clean the room” My Grandmother laughed, “And I can make my own bed!”

I hung up the phone and wondered why I had been so concerned.

There is a lot of information swirling, much like the steam from my coffee, about Covid-19. There is no denying it’s presence. Some of the information is helpful, some of it is not. And I won’t deny that I have been judgemental towards some people’s response to the information that we are being fed. I have been surprised at the way we so quickly defaulted to a “every man for himself” after the unifying experience of the bushfires. How quickly we can turn on each other.

But as I reflected on my Grandparent’s response to Covid-19, I realised something. There is a fine line between what is an “irrational” response and what is an “aware and prepared” response to Covid-19 and that line is different for everyone.

Here are two of the most at-risk individuals, out and about enjoying life despite the presence of Covid-19. They have more reason than anyone else to self-isolate, to remove themselves entirely from society and yet they have chosen not to. They are two people who have lived through the Second World War and The Great Depression. In fact, the year my Grandfather was born there was a World Influenza Epidemic where over 200,000 people died from the flu. They didn’t talk about it a lot, but the times they did share with us about what it was like to live through those times, there would be an overwhelming sense of humanity rallying together. Working together to help and serve each other.

Some people will say my Grandparents are being silly and stupid for still going on their holiday. Some people will say they are not thinking about the consequences and they should be locking themselves inside to be safe.

Some will say my Grandparents are doing a great service to Australia by choosing to continue with their holiday plans. My Grandfather has booked them in for a lovely dinner on Tuesday night (the actual day of their anniversary) and by doing so, he will be stimulating the local economy. They will buy their groceries locally, they will drink coffee from the local coffee shop, they will fill their car with petrol at the local petrol station. They will be supporting Australia by not hiding away in fear even though they have every right to.

Regardless of whether or not you think my Grandparents have lost the plot by being out and about at a time like this is irrelevant, because it’s their chosen response to this crisis. And that is the key – our response is a choice.

You can choose how you engage with this crisis and I, as your fellow man, should not judge you for it. Just to be clear I am not saying behaviour that causes harm to other people or incites violence is acceptable. What I am saying is that I promise to do my best to not mock you or look down on you if you choose to wash your hands 30 times a day. Or if you stock up on pasta and tinned goods. Or if you visit the supermarket every day to buy more toilet paper. Your response to Covid-19 is your response. What I personally deem to be irrational, you may feel is a completely justified response. The point is, we shouldn’t judge or threaten others based off their response.

My only request is that you, like my Grandparents, take some time to support your fellow man during a time when it is so easy to put the individual first. This could look like financial support, physical support in the form of time or it could be as simple as sharing some of what you have stored in your home. Whatever form this may take for you, let’s not forget that we are all in this together and that at a time when it’s easy to adopt an “every man for himself” approach, let’s intentionally be the opposite. Together, we will get through this.

Maybe, one day, I’ll be telling my Grandkids about the Covid-19 pandemic that swept through our world and will share with the beautiful ways humanity came together to support and love a world in need.