Did You Overshop? Please Consider Offering to Help Others

The COVID-19 tragedy is testing our ethical values.  We can think of how we can be supportive of each other and use good judgment, or we can hide from our conscience and jump into the next toilet paper fight (Editor’s Note: Other people will see you in the predictable video, so think twice about fighting).

Some of us bought too much of one thing or another without being consciously aware of it, and now we can turn that into something positive by being generous with others.

The building complex where I live has an online message board for residents, and we have been discussing how to cooperate with each other if any of us becomes ill.  If shortages persist or we are ordered into a lockdown, we might use that message board to arrange for sharing nonperishable foods or other items.  However, we must be aware of guidelines for keeping a distance between each other and wiping down items with disinfectant, to prevent transmission of the virus.

I’m willing to share.  The thorough grocery shopping I did to prepare for this made sense at the time, but only because I assumed I would find an opportunity to share.  Nevertheless, I feel selfish because there’s a chance none of the neighbors will need an extra bag of lentils or a few cans of soup.

I haven’t bought toilet paper recently because I bought it on sale (my usual practice) before we knew the public health issue was this serious.  One package is “on ice,” so to speak, for anyone who found an empty shelf in the store or was overpowered by another customer when reaching for the last package.  Hand sanitizer that I found unexpectedly at Walgreens went to a friend who didn’t already have it (I’ve had my own bottle of the CVS brand for months).

Today is the first day of the San Francisco Public Library shutdown, which is expected to last the rest of the month.  It’s also the first time in weeks that we’ve had a good rain, which provides real perspective where privilege is concerned.  The library is a daytime refuge for homeless people, most of whom don’t commit the disruptions you may have seen when you check out a book.  Many of them use the library to check e-mail, use the restroom and read.  It’s also a dry place to get out of the rain.

The library closure was announced on less than twenty-four hours’ notice, and I have heard nothing about safety nets for the homeless in San Francisco.  Unless there’s something I’ve missed, they’re stuck in the rain today, with limited or nonexistent options for handwashing or other basics for preventing illness.

Most of us, if we’re honest enough with ourselves, will admit we have privilege that some people don’t have right now.  Whether it’s a supportive family, a clean home or groceries/toilet paper/hand sanitizer, we should be thinking of what we can do to balance that privilege with being decent human beings.

People have already died or suffered life-changing consequences because of COVID-19.  We have a responsibility to show respect for those people, as well as for people who will suffer in the future.  Offer whatever cooperation you think is within reason, and try not to feel too bitter if you don’t receive similar cooperation in return.  Not everyone is going to be nice about this, especially when fights are breaking out in stores.

We can control our own behavior, and the way the community in general handles this will be remembered long after the COVID-19 crisis passes.

Just in case you haven’t seen this video, please take a look at it.  Then hope it isn’t an allegory about our future:

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