Responding to

"You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live
in torment if you don't trust enough."

Frank Crane
Trust means “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” When we trust someone, we have confidence in them and in their honesty and integrity. We believe that they will do the things they say they will. We recognize their abilities and strengths, and we place our faith in them.

There doesn't seem to be much of that these days.

There is unquestionably a crisis of trust and trustworthiness in our country — trust in our institutions, trust in each other, global trust in America as a whole,” Pete Buttigieg, a former presidential candidate, recently commented. Regardless of one's politics, it's hard to argue with his observation.

The pandemic seems to have brought this crisis of trust to a new level. Communities are being torn apart because people distrust each other or the information they're hearing about COVID-19. Many people don't believe the pandemic is real. Some don't think it's much of a threat. Others don't believe the statistics. Infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths are either too high or too low, depending on whose statistics they are. Guidance from public institutions such as the CDC has become suspect because of the stories we're hearing about politics driving public health recommendations. And once a vaccine becomes available the distrust will become even more pronounced.

Underlying the distrust, I believe, is fear.

Fear is a powerful emotion. When we're afraid, we react. Fear can also be used to drive people's behavior. When one has a vested interest in motivating others to react, fear can be used to capture people's attention. Thanks to the Internet, we have easy access to more information than ever before. But that information isn't always accurate, or reliable, or even useful. And regretfully, much of it is being used to stoke fear and, consequently, distrust.

I've said many times in this message that everything comes down to choice. And each choice should be an informed choice. Common sense is also an important element.

Although the CDC has been the focus of a political tug-of-war lately, their guidance on a variety of activities seems reasonable - it meets my definition of common sense. The more closely we interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher our risk of infection. We shouldn't venture out without wearing a face mask, and carrying tissues and a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. They also advise that different activities carry different risks. They offer suggestions for handling those risks. For example, if we're running errands such as going to the grocery store, we can shop during less crowded times to reduce risk. We should avoid eating anything on site or in the car on the way home. On-line ordering and curb-side pickup are also choices that limit risk. And even though their guidance has changed over time (remember early on they advised that face masks weren't helpful), as they learn more, they update their thinking. Shouldn't that be true for all of us?

Face masks may not be perfect but they're among the few options we have at our disposal. There's no way to ensure zero risk of infection. But following guidance that makes sense and that comes from a source with a history of being reliable, whether it's the CDC, a state pubic health authority, or someone else whose guidance has been right over time, helps to reduce my fear.
And now we have to figure out what to do about the upcoming holidays. Whose guidance should we follow? Should we gather indoors as usual, where we have the highest risk of spreading the virus or should we gather outdoors in the cold, where we’re safer? Maybe we should simply tell our families we won’t be seeing them this year except at a distance on FaceTime or Zoom. “There is no easy answer,” offers Aderonke Pederson, a psychiatrist and behavioral scientist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “It’s a difficult situation to be in.”

What Dr. Pederson suggests we do makes sense. For instance, if we haven't already, she recommends we talk to our family about the holidays. The sooner the better. We need to find a way to speak comfortably about our concerns “because at the end of the day, while we're trying to protect ourselves, we're also trying to encourage our family members to protect themselves, too.”

“The things that you do to keep yourself safe in public from strangers apply to the family with whom you're gathering,” adds Benjamin Singer, a critical care physician and pulmonologist at Northwestern Medicine. “Because for the purposes of transmission, your extended family that you're visiting are strangers. They're still people who aren't in your household.” He advises that the six foot physical distancing rule we’ve been using at the grocery store also applies at our relatives’ home.

That will certainly make any gathering awkward.

The truth is that there aren't any easy choices this holiday season. But one thing to keep in mind is that it's only a "season." It's not forever. And the choices we make this season will likely have impact well into the future.

Choices based on wishful thinking aren't going to be particularly helpful. Choices based on guidance from a source we trust and that makes sense, that consider the needs of others as well as ourselves, and that are not made out of anger, or fear, or even fatigue, will probably be the best choices.

Thank you. As always, your diligence, your thoughtfulness, your good humor, and your support are what make the Kitchen Angels family so extraordinary.

In gratitude,
Thank you for all your vigilance. We want you to stay safe,
healthy, and informed.