When it comes to the coronavirus, there’s no need to mock people for being afraid — or not being afraid. (Jennifer Bardsley)

When it comes to the coronavirus, there’s no need to mock people for being afraid — or not being afraid. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Of fear and illness: In the wake of COVID-19, kindness matters

We have a great opportunity to be a source of strength and support for one another.

I don’t know anything about the coronavirus, but I do know something about kindness. Like most parents, it’s a value I try to instill in my children on a daily basis. Now, more than ever, is a good time to remember the importance of kindness, especially when people are concerned about COVID-19.

Over 5 million people live in Western Washington, and we come from a variety of backgrounds. Diversity makes us stronger. People in the Puget Sound region are known for their strength, innovation and appreciation of the arts. Let’s also be known for our compassion, especially when it comes to how we behave on social media.

Every time someone says: “Chill out. There’s nothing to worry about unless you have a preexisting health condition,” there are people listening to that comment who have a preexisting health condition or care for a medically fragile family member.

Every time someone says: “Stock up on the essentials,” there are people who can’t afford to stock up, or who don’t have space to store things.

Every time someone says: “Don’t stock up. That’s ridiculous,” there are people who have family members in China, Korea, Iran or Italy whose lives are being dramatically impacted right now.

Every time someone says: “Close the schools right now,” there are families who are one paycheck away from poverty that will face economic turmoil when working parents scramble for childcare.

Every time someone says: “Why even consider it? Closing the schools is stupid,” there are teachers recovering from cancer walking into classrooms that could be a petri dish for germs.

There is one renewable, healing resource that could benefit all of these conversations: compassion. Parents are well-versed in compassion. When our 4-year-old wakes up in the middle of the night afraid of monsters in the closet, we don’t make fun of them. We are gentle in our truth-telling. When our 12-year-old has norovirus and is prone on the bathroom floor, we bring them a wet washcloth and feed them ice chips until they are better. Fear, illness — both things need the same response: kindness.

I don’t know why kindness has been in such short supply this past week. It’s not like you need to line up at Costco to buy it in bulk. It goes back to that age-old saying that mothers love to tell their children: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.”

Also unnecessary is flooding social media feeds with pictures of empty store-shelves, clickbait articles from unreliable news sources, or anything that takes bellows to the virtual fuel of panic.

We have a great opportunity to be a source of strength and support for one another. Be wise. Be kind. Be gentle. Consider the other person’s point of view. There’s no need to mock people for being afraid, or not being afraid. Period.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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