It’s easy for me as someone with a strong immune system to be frustrated about how the coronavirus is affecting my life in negative ways. I love basketball, and the NCAA basketball tournament has been canceled. There are fewer people cooking in the communal kitchen in my building, which means that I’m spending less time with friends. I don’t get to see patients who require contact precautions right now, and our meetings as a department can’t be more than 10 people. I wonder when I’ll be able to travel more freely again. I’ll be preaching in an empty chapel on Sunday because people aren’t allowed to come in person.
It’s easy for me as a millennial to want to turn this time into memes and just laugh it off as something that’s annoying and weird. To make fun of the people who are stockpiling toilet paper and canned soup. To not let it affect my life at all. Millennials are known for having sarcastic and dark humor, and it’s easy for me to roll my eyes and walk through this time like nothing matters if I don’t think about other people around me.
But it needs to affect my life. My body, if I don’t take care of it or if I don’t use proper quarantining protocol if I do get sick, is a biological weapon against people who are at higher risk. People like my dad, who has COPD. People like my uncle, who has cancer. People like those in the spoonie community, as well as the spoonies in my life, who have severe autoimmune conditions. People like my patients, who are some of the most vulnerable people on the planet. People are scared. Many of them really should be. And even though I’m not scared for my own life, I need to be ethical about the way that I am living rather than brush this off as something that’s being seen as an apocalypse and people shouldn’t be freaking out at all.
Those of us who are experiencing frustration of the fear because we have the privilege of not being so scared for ourselves, we need to be ethical about the ways that we are living. We need to make it safe for other people to exist. We need to follow CDC guidelines on washing hands, not touching our eyes, nose, or mouth, and staying home when we’re sick, even if we’re scared about the economic fallout that could come from that.
We need to support our friends who are scared. We need to check in on them, even if we can’t do that in person. We need to make sure that the ways we are living are not going to negatively affect others. It really is a matter of life and death. Even if you can’t convince yourself to care for your own benefit, think of it as an ethical issue of using privilege and making sure that we use it well.