Coronavirus: Kindness vs fear

Wednesday 18 March 2020

CatholicCare and Communications Office
The spread of Coronavirus has been causing panic around Australia. We are seeing store shelves emptied, and people fighting for packs of toilet paper. And ultimately, we are witnessing an egocentric atmosphere fuelled by fear. This is such a stark difference from the compassion and generosity we saw amidst the devastating bushfires. So what can we do about it? 
Understand the panic
The mere fact that coronavirus has been labelled as a pandemic is creating fear across the world, but as with all things new and unfamiliar, the fear of the unknown plays it’s part in the panic we are seeing in our local communities. The media constantly provides updates on the number of those infected or killed. We keep hearing of cities and countries that have gone into lockdown.
And even some local schools have closed their doors to staff and students. But in contrast with what appears to be such a dangerous disease, we are told that the best thing we can do is to wash our hands thoroughly and cough into our elbows. Such a simple (albeit effective) method of protecting oneself from a life-threatening disease seems disproportionate, thus creating more fear and a need to take matters into our own hands.

This is where panic buying comes in. It’s natural for us as humans to think of the worst, and to prepare for the worst, but in a time of fear and uncertainty, it is important that we think of our neighbours, and those less fortunate than ourselves.

Spread kindness amidst fear
Recently a good news coronavirus-related story aired across the media, and it was a heartfelt one at that. Two young girls in Queensland, aged 4 and 6, took it upon themselves to buy toilet paper to share with those in need in their community. And they used their own pocket money to do so.

We can learn so much of the selflessness of these girls, first by thinking of how our actions can impact others – for better or worse.

With store shelves left bare as a result of the panic buying, people on low incomes or those living from week to week will be suffering the consequences. Those unable to bulk buy are being left in the lurch, with many basic food staples and items unavailable in stores.

Unfortunately, panic buying is a vicious cycle, because others who see the empty shelves then start their own panic buying, but you can support your community by avoiding this behaviour.

If you need to stock up on resources in your home, do so slowly rather than bulk buying, and try to get only what you really need. If you have already done some bulk buying, consider checking in on your extended family, friends and neighbours to make sure they have enough food and sanitary items, and share with them.
Here are some other great ideas on spreading kindness amidst the fear of the coronavirus:
• Organise a food swap in your local community/school/group or create a share table where people donate and take items as needed.
• Make up packs of essential items (sanitary products, non-perishable foods, etc) and distribute to vulnerable people in your community, such as the homeless, or aged care facilities. Ask a stranger if they need any supplies, like rare toilet paper. You might ask someone in the parking lot of a supermarket, or even someone just walking down the street. Even if they say they ‘no thank you’, maybe then they will go on to return the favour for someone else in need.  
Support our medical staff
In coming weeks our health system will come under increasing strain as our doctors, nurses and other medical support staff cope with increasing numbers of highly infectious patients.

These dedicated front line staff, while taking every possible precaution, will be exposed to significant risk just by doing their jobs. We’re already seeing the tremendous toll—physical, mental, and emotional—that the coronavirus is taking on the world’s public health workforce. In Italy, where the COVID-19 virus has escalated rapidly, staff have been working multiple shifts for extended periods of time.

Fr Giovanni Musazzi, a chaplain at Sacco Hospital in Milan, a specialized center for infectious diseases, says “I am very worried about the medical staff.”  They have been working “for 16 days straight, 12 hours a day, without stopping and without complaining.”

“In fact,” he says, “they, too, are victims of loneliness. Many have had to send their children away out of fear of infecting them, and they haven’t seen their own parents for weeks. They won’t be able to see anyone for the next two months at least.”  
Here are some other ways you can support the medical staff in your family and community:

• Let them know you care and that you appreciate what they are doing for the community
• Encourage them to eat and sleep well to maintain a healthy immune system
• Offer to cook meals and/or shop, especially if their roles require they self-isolate at home between shifts
• Message regularly to let them know you are praying for them and supporting them
• Offer a listening ear if they need to “debrief”
• Deliver flowers or garden produce or a gift to show your appreciation
• Help with child care, pet walking or routine maintenance if needed
• Offer a “self-isolation” bedroom and bathroom in your home if the staff member cannot go home. Remember you can have no physical contact with them or their belongings, and that you must provide them with food and drinks (no shared kitchen access)
If you have any more ideas about how to help your local community, please let us know by contacting and we'll include them here.  
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