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1. Thank your grocery clerk.
When you head out to the grocery store, carefully avoiding too-close contact with other people, and then rush home to wash your hands, it’s made possible by the man or woman at the cash register, who’s there for eight hours or more, usually without even a mask, ringing up everyone’s purchases. And, if you see them, also thank the people stocking the shelves, many of whom work all night to refill spaces emptied by shoppers the day before. And thank the warehousemen and truckers and all the other people in the supply chain who have ensured that however bare the stores become, there’s more available in short order. Kroger just announced bonuses for its employees, and other businesses should follow suit. But you can at least say thanks. These employees are front-line soldiers as much as anyone.
2. Give a thought for the people out of work.
Some people are working from home, or drawing a paycheck while their businesses are closed. But for others it’s not so easy. Hourly employees, or those who depend on tips for most of their income, aren’t getting paid what they’re used to. If you’re in a place that’s still open, try to tip generously. If all the restaurants and bars around you have closed (as is the case in Knoxville, Tennessee, where I live) you can support the businesses by going online to buy a gift certificate to be used when they reopen or, if they’re still partly open, by doing takeout or delivery. (In some places, they can even deliver cocktails along with a meal now, which I think is a good idea since it makes restaurants money, and encourages people to stay home.) Knoxville also has a page to let you tip a random server via Venmo or other payment apps. This is available in many other cities as well.
3. Be gentle with people.
Everyone is anxious and worried to greater or lesser degrees, even the people who don’t seem to be. Show extra consideration, and if people to get snappish, cut them a bit of slack. You’ll probably be snappish yourself at some point.
4. Allow for both space and interaction.
If you’re spending a lot of time with other people, try to arrange things so that everyone gets some alone time. Some need more than others, but nearly everyone needs some. Go for a walk, sit on the porch or balcony, or something. On the other hand, if you’re alone, talk to other people on the phone or on services like Skype, Zoom, or Facetime. (Some people are even doing virtual happy hours or lunches this way). And if you know people who are going through this alone, check on them, both to make sure they’ve got what they need and just to give them some human contact. This goes double if they’re older.
5. Remember, this too shall pass.
It will live on in family stories — I still remember my grandmother’s stories about her grandmother, who was the only staffer at the Alabama Boys’ Industrial School not to succumb to the 1918 flu, but who did collapse from exhaustion when it was over. In a few weeks, or a few months, the current situation will be behind us. Try to make sure that what’s remembered about you is something positive.
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