What Will Get Us Though COVID-19? Collaboration and Compassion.

A few days ago, I read an opinion piece in the New York Times about The Great Alaska Earthquake, a 9.2 Richter’s Scale earthquake that hit Anchorage in 1964.  Members from the newly formed Disaster Research Center, which was then based at Ohio State University, dispatched to document the pandemonium they expected to see. What they saw instead was “a staggering amount of collaboration and compassion.”

The tremors and shocks we are currently experiencing personally, at work, and in the financial markets will likely persist for several more weeks. That’s far longer than the four and a half minutes the earth shook that day, but there is still much we can learn from the residents that pulled together from a natural disaster than “practically destroyed” downtown Anchorage.

Everyone has a part to play, and we all can look for opportunities to collaborate and show compassion. And regardless of your spiritual disposition, the phrase “To whom much is given, much will be required,” applies today. Here are some ways you can help us all get through this as quickly and with as little downside as possible.

First, keep in mind this is affecting everyone, so take a deep breath before lashing out publicly. It’s natural to process how this is disrupting your life first. Further, many decisions you find yourself in the wake of have significant economic consequences and/or are very disruptive to your or your family. For example, my son’s college has extended spring break, and they will finish out the semester online. This decision was made quickly and not all the consequences were thought through before the announcement was made. For sure, this is less than ideal for my family, but it’s important to keep in mind the school’s officials did not arrive at this decision lightly. While it’s fair game to ask questions, lashing out online isn’t going to change things and only serves to stir the pot of discontent. Keep in mind that fellow human beings are making these decisions and generally speaking, they are doing the best they can and only have access to incomplete information. Is it worth it to attack the messenger?

Second, be smart about it. Learn and follow the CDC guideline to help reduce the spread of the virus. Use this information to make good decisions for you and your family. Keep in mind that how you interpret the rules may not be the same as someone who does not share your circumstances. If you are young, your risk factor is lower, but for older people, COVID-19 could be life threatening. Don’t panic, but don’t judge others for reacting the way they do. Protect the herd, not just yourself.

Third, don’t take advantage. Resist the urge to hoard resources, profit from, or otherwise take advantage of anyone during this crisis. Owners and employees need to pull together and communicate honestly, openly, and completely. Employees have a role to play, too. They need to be honest about the need for sick days and resist any temptation to take advantage of the system.

Fourth, give back if you are able. A large percentage of the workforce lives paycheck to paycheck, and a non-trivial number of businesses do not have the reserves to handle any downturn. People who work in the travel industry or in local businesses that rely on foot traffic like restaurants and retail stores will be especially hard hit. How can you help? If you have a little extra, consider buying a gift card to provide cash flow to businesses you frequent. Lend a hand to people you know personally. Don’t put the brakes on spending for services you will need in few weeks.

This is an incomplete list, but I hope it includes one idea that inspires you to make a small change and make someone else’s life a little easier.

What else can we do to make this situation a little easier on everyone? Share what you are doing below.

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