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I’ve been considering what I wanted to share for a while—I even had some thoughts almost ready to go about Blaise Pascal and Emily Dickinson, but they felt…too abstract. So sorry in advance, this one is a bit of a ramble—you get stream of consciousness today.

I want to be clear. I’m currently in a place of incredible privilege, even in comparison to much of the developed world. I have a job that is about as rock-solid as you can get these days, in a field growing rapidly by virtue of the current situation. I’m financially stable. I’m able to work from home with a team familiar with virtual tools, so there wasn’t a difficult transition. My master’s program was already online. I live by myself and so don’t have anyone else I have to care for. I even have had my groceries delivered long before this started, so I have a Shipt delivery person who keeps an eye out for my orders—so my risk of exposure is low. I’m young and in good health, and have access to above-average healthcare. My parents are being wise and taking appropriate measures to stay safe. I’m a natural introvert, used to spending quite a bit of time by myself. Hell, I even had a fresh crate of Girl Scout cookies delivered right to my door yesterday.

In almost every measurable way, I’m an example of someone who is affected *the least* by COVID-19.

And yet, I am still affected. We’re all affected. It’s impossible to not be affected. Every single person is encountering and responding to this crisis in some way. For some of us, it’s relatively easy—we stay home, work remotely for a few months, and don’t have to wear pants. A lot of people aren’t as lucky as I am. For some, their livelihood is at stake. For others, their lives.

Because here’s the reality. In any event of this magnitude, where everyone is takes a hit, there’s going to be subsets of people who take a worse hit. There’s going to be a group beyond that who take *the worst* hit. It’s a sobering thought—we could manage this crisis perfectly from the federal government all the way down to our own individual reactions, and it’s still unavoidable that some people are going to take it on the chin more than others.

And there is mounting tension for everyone, no matter what their situation. I haven’t talked to anyone over the past month who hasn’t felt at least some anxiety, uncertainty, or fear about what’s happening. No one. It’s building because people are uncertain about their health, family, jobs, futures, goals, happiness and everything else in between. And it’s been building long before seeds and paint.

We’re all going to react to that anxiety differently. Nobody wants to end up at the bottom of the metaphorical heap. We’re all human, and have different coping mechanisms for grief, anxiety and fear. And we don’t react rationally in the best of times—no matter how much we might want to believe differently, we all act with our emotions, and we’re all trying to do the best we can for those we care about most—or those we think are the least cared for.

The protests yesterday weren’t about seeds or paint or motorboats. They were people reacting to anxiety—grasping for straws of control in a situation that is beyond comprehension. While I strongly disagree with some of their methods, I can empathize with what they are feeling. Their lives are slipping away in front of their faces. They want it to end. The healthcare workers, grocery store employees, and every other essential employee helping us get though this is feeling the same thing. They go to work every day in harm’s way—and they see firsthand the consequences of not staying home. They want it to end too.

We’re all struggling for a sense of normalcy. I’ve seen a lot of people lash because of what they perceive are unnecessary restrictions, or people not taking this seriously, or at political affiliations, or at potential use of medicines, or things they wouldn’t normally be angered by, or, or. The list goes on and on. The anger and action is simply another coping mechanism for the uncertainty and anxiety.

Please try to remember when you see people coping with this any way that they can—and in a way that you disagree with: they aren’t stupider than you because they didn’t stay home. They don’t want people to die for their own gain. They aren’t sheep because they’re following government instructions. They aren’t cold to the perils of small business.

They’re human. They are facing a rapidly changing world in the best way they know how. Spewing vitriol certainly isn’t going to get anyone to alter their behavior. Be gracious in your disagreement. Find common ground—and work from there to change hearts and minds. I promise you it will be more effective.

I’m not arguing that there aren’t right and wrong ways to approach this situation, or that all actions are equally valid or helpful. Simply that they we can try to understand them and the people and circumstances behind them, rather than being quick to reach for our pitchforks and keyboards. Empathy alone won’t be enough to get us through this, but without it, it’s sure going to be harder for everyone.

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