Free of Fear

As we navigate through life during the pandemic, fear of the unknown and the panic it generates is perhaps the most contagious virus of our time. In the early months of the spread of the virus, we witnessed people stockpiling food and essentials, clearing out supermarket shelves, and even buying guns and ammunition! All of this was a response to the uncertainty and lack of enough information surrounding COVID-19, especially in the beginning. However, through following the months, as we have begun to learn about the virus, develop treatments for those infected, and establish practices to reduce its spread, the panic buying has slowly declined. Unfortunately, though, fear has not subsided. 

In response to different views about how to live during these unprecedented times, we are beginning to see controversy break out globally. World leaders are taking different positions about whether to continue government shutdowns or not, and citizens are becoming agitated with differing views in their communities. No longer does it feel like we are in this fight together, but instead, we are fighting one another.

All these actions have been driven by fear. Whether an individual promotes social distancing or spouts that societies need to reengage and allow Darwin’s theory to play out, they are responding with fear. This includes fear of death, fear of losing a loved one, fear that life may remain in a reserved state for years to come, fear of losing a job…the list goes on. The reality is that whatever a person’s position, fear is the driving factor to their behaviors.

Balancing fear with facts

Today, fear has paralyzed the planet more so than the virus itself. Don’t get me wrong; we have every reason to be worried and must act with caution. However, we must make decisions and choices based on logic and rationale during these challenging times. We must overcome the fear that is driving us. Thousands of scientists and medical professionals worldwide are taking actions to further understand COVID-19, its impact, and how to best prevent its spread. It is up to the world’s citizens to listen to science and follow the established protocols recommended by professionals.

During these times, we can’t let fear control our lives and get us down. This pandemic will not last forever. We can stay safe by staying informed and remaining calm. We are all in this together and it’s important that we recognize that. We can fight the pandemic together without fear driving our actions. Only then can we potentially transition to some form of new normal. 

The reality is that fear tends to overtake the facts; in many instances, fear has the capability of taking us on flights of nightmarish fancy. It has a peculiar tendency to remove the balance from our thinking. We often either find ourselves paralyzed by fear, unable to take the actions necessary to move forward, or we find ourselves responding to fear with no logical thinking, making irrational decisions based on our emotions. Both scenarios are equally dangerous. 

Therefore, it is crucial during this time of crisis to separate fact from fiction. Since the outbreak first came to light, an “infodemic” of misleading information and fake news about Covid-19 has spread more quickly than the coronavirus itself. And the thing about fear in the digital age is that it can be transmitted instantly over the airwaves from smartphone to smartphone through group text and social media feed. It is worrisome that it can spread from one to many almost at the speed of light, faster than this dangerous yet invisible virus the world is battling. So, it is up to each of us to curb this misinformation outbreak by relying only on trusted sources of information. 

When learning new information, research the sources it comes from and determine the credibility of the person who shares the news. If they are not reliable, move on, and remember, false news is nothing more than an attempt to spread fear. In the end, fear will not stop the virus; only facts can. Now more than ever, the world needs to be balanced in its thought and approach.

Don’t stop living

We have survived wars, earthquakes, floods and famine, the outbreak of SARS, MERS, Zika, Bird Flu, Ebola, and the like, and arguably the most devastating pandemic of the 20th century – HIV/AIDS. Worse calamities have befallen the world, and there will be more. But we will prevail, as we have always done. Just as long as we do not fall into a fear-induced frenzy.

In 1948, CS Lewis wrote about the atomic bomb in an essay titled “On Living in an Atomic Age.”

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

These words bear some relevance to our situation today if you replace the phrase “atomic bomb” with “Covid-19.” Once again, I emphasize here that in no way am I diminishing the genuine threat we all face today. But Lewis’ words are a reminder that while the risk of death is severe, it’s not novel. Let’s not succumb to panic or allow fear to dominate our minds and paralyze our hearts

We are in this together

Now more than ever, we need to band together as one (figuratively speaking, of course, in these times of social distancing). We cannot afford to lose our sense of goodwill and compassion for others in this mad, desperate attempt to save ourselves. The cost of all this panic is that the weak and vulnerable will feel its ultimate impact. Our humanity is being tested every single day, and we need to prevail. It is only by caring for each other that we can come out on the other side of this relatively unscathed.

Do not let this virus become a political separator in our communities. There is already enough hate and separation in our world, and responses to the virus have surprisingly expanded this division. Take control of your actions and be the person who supports those in a time of crisis – not the one who judges others for being different. Remember that we can be diverse and have different ideologies and beliefs, but underneath it all, we are humans sharing the same planet, experiencing the same thing everywhere. 

Reach out to whoever you can in your community and help them out in whatever way possible. In my organization our corporate Foundation has been working with NGOs and other grassroots organizations to provide food, groceries, sanitation, and medical supplies to those impacted the most by the virus – the daily wage laborers, the migrant workers, and the refugees in various countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. 

My wife and I have personally donated to our local community’s food and grocery drive to help families that have lost their income. Also, we know of friends and family who are cooking meals and delivering them to the homeless.  Some, who live in countries with strict lockdown measures, are even risking citations by going out and distributing them. I know some of my employees have joined volunteer groups dedicated to giving back to their neighborhoods. They reach out to neighbors, asking if they need assistance, whether running to the store for them if they are high risk or simply taking their animals for a walk. At this time, figure out how you can be a part of the solution to bring us together during these trying times and become the act of inspiration. Because only by our actions can we truly make an impact in the communities around us.

Additionally, let us take this time to practice gratitude and thank the warriors who are keeping us safe. The healthcare workers who are battling in the hospital corridors instead of trenches. The sanitation workers who continue to clean our streets and collect our garbage. And those who are risking going back to their service jobs so that businesses can open up and citizens can begin to participate in normal daily activities (of course, while practicing social distancing). These individuals risking their lives to help others, especially those in the frontlines saving those infected with COVID-19, are the reminders of humanity that we need.

This year we are fighting a war, and the humanitarian within us must emerge victorious for humanity to triumph. We cannot be driven by fear, forging further separations among our neighbors. Instead, we must unite and fight this war together. And if we do, not only may life return to normal, but we may even experience a shift in global unity. We may find serenity in knowing that although there was much death, fear, and grief brought on by the pandemic, there was also a unification of nations worldwide. The truth is, if we can fight this fight, we can fight any fight.