Americans are known for our spirit of rugged individualism. We love to celebrate individual creativity, ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and volunteerism. It can be inspiring!

Except when it comes to fighting a global pandemic.

The United States is a few weeks behind China, South Korea, Italy, and other countries hard hit by COVID-19. We’re now experiencing a national test to see if individualism will overcome the need for us to fall in line and adopt personal habits of social distancing to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us. 

The plea from health experts for self-isolation distancing goes directly against a basic stubbornness to think, “I have the right to do as I please and you can’t stop me!”
But I believe that at our core, Americans are compassionate, too. Together, we can turn an attitude of forced isolation to one of solidarity in kindness. Part of that will be the spread of information and stories to ignite our collective compassion.

The Science of #FlattenTheCurve

It’s now too late to stop the spread of the corona virus, so we need to take every precaution to SLOW the spread. When people use the phrase “Flatten the Curve,” they’re talking about a graph representing the number of daily cases over time. This graph from the CDC illustrates the goal of social distancing: a reduction in the outbreak’s peak. We want to slow the spread of the virus, so a sudden increase doesn’t overwhelm our ability to respond.

The most important part of the graph is the location of the peak relative to the line showing the limits of our health care system. The worst case of a big spike in COVID-19 would be health care rationing! 

The Need for Kindness

In the U.S., crossing that health care line would be especially alarming because it tends to be our wealthy that get access to any scarce resource even before low-income folks who might need it more. High-risk medical populations and people experiencing poverty would be most in danger. The virus would spread quickly through people unable to self-isolate, including hourly employees without savings and homeless populations.

Isn’t it the most noble thing we can do…to use our personal actions to protect the most vulnerable? Isn’t it an exercise in kindness to protect the lives of our elders, our neighbors in ill health, and people struggling through this crisis in poverty?

Stephen and April

Folks are worried. They’re scared and asking for our help. Read two stories from my friends who depend on our actions and herd immunity to keep them safe.

Steven lives in Syracuse, NY, and is awaiting a kidney for transplant. I follow him on Twitter because the way he expresses his love of his family, Disney, and video games. He also tweets about what life is like waiting every day for a kidney donor.

Steven says:

“For me, I worry about being able to get dialysis as well as my increased potential for infection due to being immunocompromised. In all those articles where they talk about the people most at risk…well, that’s me. 

I’ve fought for so long to survive for my family. I don’t want to get sick and have to try and fight this…and if I have to go to the hospital, can I get dialysis? Will they be too overwhelmed? See, I can’t put off dialysis. It’s not something I can stop doing for a while. I HAVE to do it. Or I die. So, I worry about that. Then I worry about being able to pay our bills. We’re stretched as thin as butter over too much bread as it is. We’re not sure if my wife can work the next few weeks, either. And my “safety cushion” savings got used up long ago.”

April of St Louis, MO is one of the strongest women I know and not just because she’s my Taekwondo instructor! She’s not a complainer. When injured, pushes through pain as she performs jump kicks and other physically demanding feats in our workouts. Most people wouldn’t think she’s medically at risk.

April says:

“I’m really tired of how little concern some people are showing for those of us who would contract a serious case of COVID-19 and could die from this. Your jokes about the flu also are not comforting or funny. I end up in the hospital every flu season. I won’t be one of the “mild” cases, so when you make fun of those of us who are showing concern and taking caution, you’re showing me you really don’t care about my well-being. Please stop. I am scared and if you can’t be a decent human being and empathize with those of us who aren’t as lucky and healthy as you are, please just do us all a favor and don’t say anything at all.

What Can We Do?

Author Cindy Wang Brant posted an image of this brainstorming exercise a family did with “Family Quarantine of Love” written on top to remind them that these sacrifices are acts of love. 

This is an original post written by Cynthia Changyit Levin for World Moms Network.

Cindy Levin

Cynthia Changyit Levin is a mother, advocate, speaker, and author of the upcoming book “From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started.” A rare breed of non-partisan activist who works across a variety of issues, she coaches volunteers of all ages to build productive relationships with members of Congress. She advocated side-by-side with her two children from their toddler to teen years and crafted a new approach to advocacy based upon her strengths as a mother. Cynthia’s writing and work have appeared in The New York Times, The Financial Times, the Washington Post, and many other national and regional publications. She received the 2021 Cameron Duncan Media Award from RESULTS Educational Fund for her citizen journalism on poverty issues. When she’s not changing the world, Cynthia is usually curled up reading sci-fi/fantasy novels or comic books in which someone else is saving the world.

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