stay calmHer glazed and dazed look still startles me. Keep calm. Step up. Her darting eyes cast a more gripping fear than catching the novel coronvirus.

The elderly woman scanning the empty shelves at Walmart the other night reminds me of me in another twenty-five years. Oh, how I wish I had stopped my own foraging for food and asked this shuffling-along stranger if she needed help finding anything on her grocery “wish list.”

I’ve seen that rattled and confused aura in the seniors I visit with my pet therapy dog. I know the resigned slump of the elderly widows who live literally a house or two from my home.

I missed my opportunity earlier this week, but I refuse to miss it again. So hold on and stay with me until the last word.


We Are Not Starving

America, keep calm, please. Seriously. Right now. Starting today. We are in this together. We are not combatants lunging for the last can of chili beans. Nor are we suffering to the degree of solely living on Spam®. Or much worse. We are not starving. In recent years, I have interviewed several people from other countries who literally were starving, living off eating clumps of grass and weeds. Or nothing at all.

Yes, our world is wobbling on its axis, but it will not fall off. It may FEEL like Planet Earth is spinning recklessly into a black hole and we are helplessly hurtling and flailing right into the evil vortex. But we ARE NOT.

We are all experiencing angst that will take up a chapter in the history books, but we can be a part of making sure that these anxious times feature a litany of ways we choose to stand up to the COVID-19 antagonizer and step up for our most vulnerable—especially the estimated 47 million older adults who live among us.


Turning the Tide on This Unseen Brute

Snuffing out the coronavirus and ending its swashbuckling mayhem starts with me. It starts with you. And here’s some practical ways how we can together keep calm, step up, and turn the tide on this unseen brute.

Look beyond your own situation. It’s tempting to turn myopic and self-focused during crisis times. Granted, you need to care for you and your family, but please don’t forget those around you who face another set of challenges. Maybe it’s your senior neighbors with mobility and health challenges who could use a ride to the doctor’s or need a pharmacy pick-up. What about the adult with disabilities on your block who could use a simple smile? Many are hurting over the huge hit to their income. If you do have ample resources, perhaps now is the time to pay it forward on behalf of others financially strained.

Be intentional with communicating with others. Social distancing does not mean social isolation. Now is the time to send those texts, make those phone calls, and take advantage of social networking through audio and video calls. Here’s an idea of all the teens and college students out of the classroom right now. Why not teach your grandparents or an older friend, relative, or neighbor how to use FaceTime, Skype, Messenger, Snapchat, or the plethora of other non-social isolation ways to stay in touch?


Leaving a Little Extra

Give of yourself … yes, even from your COVID-19 stockpile. Let’s be honest. We all have purchased a few extras in the past few weeks. Butt of course, need I mention toilet paper? The bottom line: I admit to having enough of the white fluffy rolls to last just me a few months. My neighbor was going to Costco, and well ….

What if we all donated one or two items from our surplus this week to a neighbor in need or a local food pantry? It is more blessed to give than receive, and God says he loves a cheerful giver. Leaving a little extra is a cure for the grab-all-you-can-while-you-can frenzy running amok these days.stay calm

Hoarding and being a glutton is not becoming and it does not reflect well on any of us. What if each one of us dipped into our coronavirus stash and stretched our somewhat-greedy paws into a full open hand to bless someone in greater need? I’m game. Good-bye a six-pack of TP.

Consider volunteering. I know about the not-more-than-10-people orders and hospitals limiting visitors, etc. (Maisie is so eager to get back to her pet therapy work with me!) But what if we called our local Area Agency on Aging or a home care agency or a group like Silver Key and offered to pitch in as they direct? Maybe provide transportation to someone who can’t drive. Pack and deliver meals. Make phone calls to check in on the sick and elderly. I bet every community services group could put us to meaningful and purposeful work.


Enough with the Dour News

Be silly in the somber. Laugher is good medicine, and we all need a dose of levity in these “unprecedented times.” Look for goofy memes to share on social media. Take and send amusing photos to others. Lately, I’ve been snapping for-grins photos of political cartoons in the paper and forwarding them to friends. Come on, loosen up. Share your latest funny grocery store foraging tips. Cut loose and chortle when you play those board games with the kids for the upteenth time.

Soak in the gratitude. Enough with dour news on how the virus is the end of all civilization. If anything, this virus is weeding out our preoccupation with self and overabundance and stirring us all to be grateful for what we DO have. Do we really need hand sanitizer to make us happy? Do we need a month’s supply of rice and beans and bottled water to promise us contentment? How about we take a thorough accounting of all the family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors that truly make our lives rich with caring and humanity?

Who knows, maybe when we look beyond our struggles, intentionally communicate, give of ourselves (and our stockpile), volunteer to help, and be silly in the somber, we will naturally soak in the gratitude. And perhaps, we’ll make countless friendships along the way—even with older strangers in the grocery store who could use a hand in reaching that last can of chili beans off the top shelf. I bet you and I don’t really need it for another month anyway.