Responding to
COVID-19

“There are two primary choices in life: To accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.”

Dr. Denis Waitley
Change is inevitable.

It's a bit of an understatement, given our current circumstances. The question for me is what exactly needs to change?

As of last Friday, the coronavirus had killed at least 633,314 people worldwide. Nearly 23 percent of the deaths have occurred in the United States, a country whose population represents only 4.25 percent of the world's population.

Back in May, I wrote that we need to pay attention to the impact our individual actions have on our communities on a much broader scale than we have historically. We need to consider the " common good ," that which benefits society as a whole, in contrast to the  private go od  of individuals and sections of society. 

 For any civil society to function, there must be a recognition of, and willingness to adhere to, a "social contract" which, according to t he Oxford Dictionary, is defined as "an implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits." Essentially, it's how we get along.

I believe our commitment to the common good has faded and that we are no longer willing to adhere to a social contract that allows our communities to exist. Reestablishment of our social contract is what needs to change.

Looking at the country's collective response to the pandemic, and particularly the tug-of-war around wearing face marks, Frank Bruni offered a troubling perspective last week, writing, "Our struggle with this pandemic has convinced me that somewhere along the way, we went from celebrating individual liberty to fetishizing it, so that for too many Americans, all sense of civic obligation and communal good went out the window." He suggests that Americans developed "an immature definition of freedom, conflating it with selfishness, convenience and personal comfort."

Bruni referred to Colorado Governor Jared Polis ' observation that face masks are not an infringement on our liberties but actually a ticket to more freedom when he issued Colorado's statewide face mask mandate. “It makes it less likely that businesses will be shuttered. It makes it less likely that people will die. It makes it more likely school will return.”

No one person is to blame for the pandemic. While many of us would like to point the finger at various individuals, entities and institutions for failing to do their jobs, the reality is that the capacity to stop the pandemic lies with each one of us. It's a bit like a third grade schoolyard brawl. It doesn't matter who started it.

Researchers  from the University of California Berkeley found that if 80 percent of the population wore face masks consistently, COVID-19 transmission rates would decline 12-fold, a solution much more sustainable than a full physical and economic lockdown. In New Mexico, that means roughly 1,680,000 people need to consistently wear face masks. Add regular hand washing and physical distancing, and it's clear we have the capacity to dramatically change the trajectory of the pandemic and its impact on our lives.

The bottom line is that we have the power to shorten the duration of the crisis and to save lives. But only if we work together.
The actions we've been asked to take are really just small inconveniences that can help keep everyone safe. They're significantly less inconvenient when compared with the long term damage the virus can do to a person's body or that a sustained pandemic can do to our communities. And yet, many people continue to argue that wearing a face mask is an infringement on their civil liberties and that limits on social gatherings somehow violate our freedom of expression.

Our clients know the true inconvenience of life in a permanent "lockdown." Most can't venture out of their own homes, at least not without help. Some have been immune compromised for many years and live daily with the fear of an infection they won't be able to survive. And yet, as one client wrote, “Your interactions with all of us homebound, and often socially isolated, clients certainly restore our dignity and elicit profound gratitude."  Our clients understand, probably better than most, what it means to have their lives interrupted by circumstances beyond their control as well as the importance of caring for each other. Our volunteers know the power that comes from working together for a common goal.

It's time to set aside our individual differences, be they political, religious, cultural or ethnic, and return our focus to the common good. There will be plenty of opportunity to pick up our old squabbles once the pandemic is over, if we're so inclined. And perhaps, once we've made it through the pandemic, our old squabbles won't seem as important.

Kitchen Angels volunteers, staff and clients are an amazing family that knows what's possible when we support each other and work collectively. And Kitchen Angels volunteers embody the opposite of what Frank Bruni laments. You are "civic obligation and communal good" personified. Collectively, we have the power to end the pandemic. It's time we did.

 To each of you and the entire Kitchen Angels family, thank you.

In gratitude,
Thank you for your vigilance. We want you to stay safe, healthy and informed.
Mastering Life's Transitions

Bruce Feiler is an author, speaker and survivor of a number of significant life changing events. His book, Life is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age , was written well before the pandemic. Based on hundreds of interviews with people who experienced life changing events, the author describes a process for adapting that is relatively predictable. The book seems almost prescient.

Feiler found that, typically, each of us goes through many events over the course of our lives that have the potential to disrupt our world. A few, however, become major life-altering events that lead to "life transitions." He calls these major life-altering events "Lifequakes" because, like earthquakes, they come with "after shocks."

The "after shocks" can last as long as five years, depending on the nature of the event and wether it was voluntary or not. Voluntary lifequakes are things like choosing to move, changing jobs, or getting married. Involuntary lifequakes include things like losing a job or being diagnosed with a disease.

Once the event has occurred, the key is to transition our thinking and behavior to the new circumstances. Feiler says that there are five apsects to these transitions.
  • They're emotional experiences encompassing everything from fromfear to relief and everything in between.
  • They're messy.
  • They're opportunities to discover talents and pursue activities that many of us have put on hold.
  • They're opportunities to rewrite ourselves in ways that reflect our new reality.
  • They're essential. We have to take the time needed to "tweak and calibrate how we want to spend our time and what gives us meaning.”

The whole world will be going through this process to some degree. Understanding that it's a predictable process and that it will be shared by many others may make some of the challenges feel a little less, well . . . challenging.
If you want to return to volunteering . . .

. . . please first ask yourself if you are willing to adhere to our required risk-mitigating protocols throughout all parts of your day, and not just while at Kitchen Angels.

In particular: 
  1. Am I able to work a full shift wearing a face mask?
  2. Can I hear well enough from six-feet away if the other person is speaking through a face mask?
  3. Am I willing to work a different shift than the one I previously worked?
  4. Can I commit to showing up to my shift on-time and without canceling at the last minute?
  5. Can I adapt to a new environment and new routine?
  6. Can I reliably communicate with the Volunteer Coordinator?
  7. Do I feel safe being back in the public sphere?

If you answer "NO" to any of these questions, you're not ready to return. If you're not sure, check with Lauren.