Essay: Coronakindness

Mar 17, 2020

Scientists are still working to understand COVID-19, and there remains a lot of uncertainty about how it behaves. That uncertainty breeds fear, and that fear can bring out repugnant human behavior.

Lake Effect contributor Arno Michaelis is a former white supremacist who now makes his living traveling the world to speak out against hate and violence. His work has come to a grinding halt due to cancellations, travel bans and practicing social distancing.

But Michaelis says taking the time to examine and change our behavior for the health and safety of others is crucial. One way we can do that is through what he calls, “Coronakindness.”

I was driving up Prospect Ave and noticed a couple with a baby walking out of the hospital trying to cross the street. They were visibly upset.

My first thought was that they were upset that no one was stopping to let them cross, so I stopped, stopping a bunch of cars behind me, and they took the opportunity to cross the street.

The woman snapped out of her frustration for a second, smiling at me and giving a cherished thank-you wave.

I can only imagine what that couple is really stressed about. I really hope all it was was being unable to cross the street. It could be, and likely is, something much more stressful.

I am stressed out of my gourd myself.

Coronavirus is royally derailing my program.

I make my living speaking to large crowds of people in public places, and my livelihood is literally being cancelled left and right.

Through it all, I'm massively grateful that I live with my amazing mom in a house that's paid for, and that while my family isn't loaded by any stretch, we have enough to forego stresses that billions of people face every day.

I'm deeply mindful that the impact coronavirus has on our economy has already devastated countless people exponentially beyond the hit I'm taking. I've always been fascinated by the econosystem, a marvel of interdependence that gives so many people means to not only survive, but thrive.

Just trying to get my head around what the suspension of the NBA season alone will cost is dizzying. (and now the NHL TOO?!?! NNOOOOOOOO!!!!) Considering the domino effect of everything else being suspended is otherworldly.

While there are much more lethal diseases, the contagiousness of coronavirus means there will be many fatal cases. Thinking of all the people suffering with it and losing loved ones is horrific.

We, as in everyone on this planet, are in for a rough ride as we all work to sort this pandemic out. Which is why kindness is now more important than ever, and more powerful than it's ever been.

I don't want a cookie for letting pedestrians cross the street. Giving kindness is its own reward. I just want to share how the very simple act of kindness gave me what I needed to keep going today. And the ridiculously beautiful thing is: when I need something to keep going tomorrow, which I will, all I have to do is find someone to be kind to.

Very important point: we can totally be kind online and/or otherwise from a distance! See staythef***home.com (note to self Arno!).

The practice and cultivation of kindness has never been a fluffy kumbaya game. We humans evolved the ability as a survival trait, and with its comrades compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, and wisdom, kindness has kept us going for 200,000 years.

If we're gonna keep going through this, we all gotta triple down on our kindness practice.

Our great human family is at stake.

I love you all.