Photo: Michael Henderson/Unsplash

This is the second “Letters From Lockdown” of those I’m posting on Thrive Global.

Suggestions and ideas in these letters derive from my years as a professor of preventive medicine and observations as we all adjust our lives to fight this pandemic.

My husband, Chris, and I went out for a walk a few days ago.  It was a beautiful day. We live in a fairly rural area and didn’t expect much bobbing and weaving around people.  

We found that it was sometimes difficult to keep a distance from others.  Some groups filled the entire sidewalk. Going around them meant stepping into the road or into thick grass — which we did.  

I didn’t sense that most of the people in our path intended to be inconsiderate. They were busy talking. Also, many of us still feel awkward about moving away from others. So, it occurred to me that we could use a set of coronavirus courtesy guidelines to save lives.

Here are a few:

If you come across an older person, whether silver-haired or not, step aside and let them pass or go around them from at least the recommended distance — even if you’re asymptomatic and/or sure you don’t have the virus.

Don’t take up paths or sidewalks with your family and friends as anyone approaches — not just older people.

Don’t stop to admire babies or pet dogs. A greeting from afar and a smile will do. We could all use that connection right now.

Try adopting the perspective of those cultures that intensely value seniors. A friend of mine said yesterday, “This is all we need.  Older people are already seen as an annoyance.” Hey, they raised us, loved us, contributed to society.  Let’s get a grip here.

If you are senior, be appreciative of gestures made to protect you with a nod or smile. Have food delivered to your door without you being there to chat. Perhaps express gratitude from a window — keeping your distance.

We’re living in a different world now and for the foreseeable future. Courtesy and consideration of a new type can save lives and still allow us to be both civil and caring.

We simply need to be mindful.   We’re in this together.

That’s it for now. Be safe, Kathleen

An earlier version of this letter was posted at


  • Kathleen Kelley Reardon

    Professor Emerita, University of Southern California Marshall School/Preventive Medicine Research. Author of THE SECRET HANDSHAKE, SHADOW CAMPUS and DAMNED IF SHE DOES

    Professor Emerita, USC Marshall School of Business with a joint position in preventive medicine, Kathleen is a Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Mortar Board and a member of the International Women's Forum (IWF).  She was a featured blogger at Huffpo from 2005 to 2016 and for Big Think. She is the author of numerous articles, including The Harvard Business Review classic, "The Memo Every Woman Keeps in Her Desk,"  and "Courage as a Skill."  She has published ten nonfiction books on communication, persuasion, negotiation, gender issues and politics in organizations, including bestsellers THE SECRET HANDSHAKE and IT'S ALL POLITICS.  She has consulted extensively for organizations and was visiting professor at Stanford University and Distinguished Research Scholar at The Irish Management Institute.  She has turned her hand to fiction as well.  Her debut novel, SHADOW CAMPUS, captures the behind-the-scenes culture of a university where moral turpitude is common and a young woman's tenure, her relationship with an estranged brother, and her life hang in the balance. Forbes described it as a "fast-paced" and "masterful debut." The sequel, DAMNED IF SHE DOES (2020), a NYC-based crime mystery, was described by Kirkus Reviews as "informed and searing" and a "page-turning success." Kathleen is originator and co-founder of The First Star Academies overcoming obstacles and preparing foster children to attend college. She received the University of Connecticut Alumni Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2013. Kathleen lives in Ireland where she writes and is an artist in watercolor and oils.  She developed an art website for people with Parkinson's disease at Her political writing and other art is at and at a Facebook page, Kathleen Kelley Reardon.