• Leslie Crews

Is Coronavirus A Hidden Blessing?

What Covid-19 is teaching us about priorities

The world is in crisis. Thanks to our collective inability to focus on what’s truly important, the COVID-19 Coronavirus has people across the country buying all the toilet paper, and oddly, lamb shanks.

Yes, according to the empty shelves in the meat department, someone is preparing to cook a rack of lambs, duck, and baby back ribs during a non-holiday. I’m awaiting the sweet aroma of barbecue in the wind; someone is undoubtedly out grilling, in the midst of the pandemic.

The media would have you think that we should be preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Every quarantine movie and graphic novel has prepared us for this. But this isn’t a movie. People are scared, and scared people panic.

Because I’m a fan of the weird and creepy, some part of me has always been prepared for a crisis like this one. Coming from a big family, there were at least two jumbo sized packs of toilet paper in the house at any given time. Seeing empty shelves and store signs restricting customers to one toilet paper sale per person, is a glaring indicator that people are short-sighted.

It’s a pandemic! Must buy toilet paper.

I’ll never understand why people buy the most perishable foods like milk and fruit instead of beans and flour during a crisis. Why spend loads of money on water stockpiles (plastic breaks down over time, be sure to rotate your stash), instead of reusable filters. People were trying to trade hand sanitizer like bitcoin. While I stood in the threshold of the warehouse store, growing increasingly frustrated with humankind, I questioned if everyone had simultaneously lost their minds. Then I thought, yes. Yes, they have lost their minds, but maybe it’s because people have been deprived of their real lives.

Maybe we’ve spent too much time working to build a stable and fruitful future, that we’ve forgotten how to focus on what’s truly important; living a full life. For spiritual and analytical reasons, I’m not with the hype. Though the light traffic is appreciated, my family life and home routines haven’t changed much. The lights are still on, the mystery leak in the dining area is still mystery-leaking, my dog still needed his 6–7 cans of grain free, chicken free food.

I geared up for a normal store run, right as my state issued the notice that schools would be closed for two weeks.

There were club lines inside the grocery store. Seriously.

Grain free, chicken free, wet dog food is hard to find on a regular day, let alone when your state has decided to close public schools, at 6 o’clock in the evening; right at the end of the business day for working parents and people who have to get home to walk their dogs. A normal stroll through my favorite warehouse grocery store ended as soon as my feet crossed the store’s threshold. To be fair, I walked far enough into the store to see, what appeared to be, every cart the store owned, filled to the brim with Gatorade, milk, and sugary cereal.

Focused parents with their children hanging off the carts. Some sitting quietly with headphones and an iPad. People circling aisles hunting for mostly-empty abandoned carts. Speed walkers squeezing between the customers standing in a line that reached a section of the store that most people wander into only by accident.

Step. Heel. Pivot. Back out the door I went.

Far be it from me to convince anyone that their priorities aren’t in order. But right then it occurred to me that COVID-19 Coronavirus, might be a blessing in disguise.

Though frightening, deadly, and stressful, in some not-so-obvious ways the pandemic might be a chance to collectively reevaluate our priorities. Perhaps there’s a reason that something seemingly small, is devastating major corporations and small businesses alike. Could the end result of the pandemic be a reasonable work life balance for all of us?

Visualization exercise.

How would your sick body feel if you didn’t have to worry about being fired for calling in sick? How might your life, or the life of someone you care about, be different if they didn’t have to use personal time off to take care of children or loved ones unexpectedly. How would you feel if your company shut down operations and sent you home without pay — unless you used slowly accrued personal time off?

For the first time in my lifetime, companies of varying sizes are being placed in a position where human life must be treated as a priority.

Is this recent change in tone primarily about self-preservation? Come on. I’m sure it’s mostly about self-preservation. But companies that have never before offered paid leave, are publicly acknowledging the impact illness has on businesses, processes, and revenue. State officials are prohibiting service providers from cutting off utilities and evicting tenants in response to the health crisis. Could compassion for others become the new business model?

In a way, I believe businesses are seeing that people are a critical business need. And as a consequence, people are starting to recognize that their health and care for others is a critical need to live full lives.

The Federal Government passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Some big companies, like Apple, are revisiting long-standing policies on sick leave and remote work, opting to focus on family life and personal health over some business functions.

Companies that have never offered paid medical leave, are opting to pay employees through this health crisis. Granted, this is not the case for everyone. But something tells me that if we learn from the mistakes of ill preparedness and mis-prioritization of human life, maybe we could all say that we work one job to pay our living expenses, that we have a reasonable daily commute, and that we have time to spend with the people we care about, in a space that is comfortable. Isn’t this the American dream?

Ah yes. I occasionally slip on rose colored glasses. But pink is much more fun than black and white. If you disagree, feel free to play in the shadows, I’m sure you’ll get bored there.

Small business owners and the service industry may not think of declining customers as a business opportunity. But wouldn’t this be a great time to support the local businesses that we drive past every day? When you are in partial quarantine, it becomes advantageous to stay close to home. Maybe a visit to the small store or coffee shop that was previously overlooked, in route to the store with the discount points, could work in everyone’s favor. Although businesses are temporarily closing, not everyone is in a panic. Perhaps relief is on the other side of the Coronavirus coin.

This pandemic could be a welcomed momentary stress relief for some people. Financial lenders and property managers are waiving late fees to offer relief to tenants. Interest rates are at historical lows, offering financial relief for some people. The stock market is taking a beating, but I’d argue that this beating isn’t nearly as brutal as some people who support their daily business operations. I don’t care about business revenue when people’s lives are presumed to be in danger. And for some, this unexpected financial relief was much needed and long overdue.

For the moment, I feel like people are starting to see the value in prioritizing human life over money. When you go, you can’t take it with you.

Here are a few ways the pandemic teaches us why we should prioritize life over anything else:

Your health is the most important thing in your life.

As a person who occasionally has to work up the courage to call into work sick, a company notice saying that employees will not be given the side-eye if they decide to work remotely, was an enormous weight lifted.

It’s hard to prioritize your health (physical or mental) when you’re afraid of backlash. I’ve read full stories on the difficulties people face when trying to communicate that they’re not well enough to show up. It shouldn’t be this hard, but for some people it’s difficult. Especially when you may have to take leave without pay.

Paid sick leave is a necessity for everyone.

Who among us has never been sick or taken off work to care for a loved one? Illness is inevitable. Who benefits from pretending that people are bionic? Even robots need time to install updates and recharge. The benefit of powering through illness has never been, a benefit. People who believe wholeheartedly that showing up to work sick is “dedication”, or creating conditions where employees have to come to work sick, is “tough yet effective management”, are shortsighted. Creating environments where people are scared to call in sick for fear of retaliation or going without pay is cruel. And gross. Everyone has to eat.

Cleanliness is a necessity, not an option.

It bothers me that adult humans have to be reminded to cover their mouths with a tissue or sleeve when they cough or sneeze. And I am convinced that anyone who needs to be reminded to wash their hands were raised in a zoo. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t say that peoples moms didn’t raise them right, but I said what I said. Failing to prevent the spread of illness is inconsiderate and gross. Yet somewhere in America, an adult just learned how to properly wash their hands. On the other side of gross, I’ve seen reports of people spraying other people with disinfectant. You’re supposed to use caution when spraying disinfectant sprays around plants and animals. What convinced people that it’s would be a “good idea” to spray people. Mass hysteria. It brings out ignorance and foolishness, every time. Everyone needs a financial break from time to time. Parents and guardians who begrudgingly work long hours to pay excessive daycare and private school fees, are now being encouraged to stay home with the kids. A welcomed change of events for some, a nightmare for concentration for others. It has me thinking, why is child care and non collegiate tuition so expensive? Is it possible that having the kids at home for a few weeks will lead to financial relief for someone? Possibly.

People need people.

For most of us, our goal in life isn’t to work like a mule until we retire. Retirement is too far away, you should enjoy life now. That includes spending more quality time with the special people in our lives.

I like my colleagues and enjoy their company, but loads of people who hate their jobs, commutes, and coworkers may be looking at this indefinite work from home situation, or the involuntary time off, as a way to reconnect to what’s important to them; their identities outside of work, their real lives and the people in them.

Whether by circumstance or force, COVID-19 might be teaching us to prioritize our health and well-being, and to be more considerate and compassionate of the people around us.

Instead of going stir crazy, reach out to your loved ones. Dedicate time to yourself and take care of yourself, mentally and physically.

Be safe everyone. I hope this helps someone.

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