In Key West, the beaches have closed, state parks have been barricaded, hotels have been emptied, Duvall Street bars are shut down, restaurants are silent, and the grocery shelves are empty. Amazon lacks paper products, hand sanitizers, antibiotic wipes, cleaners and homeopathic remedies.
The only open outside spaces are the County dog parks and playgrounds. For many of us, this is our only social time. We carefully place our chairs in a circle, 6’ feet apart and share stories and laughs while our dogs play.
Recently, some seniors have decided to photograph those who they perceive are violating the 6’ rule (social distance). They want to shut down all parks. In Key West, couples come in all colors, ages and genders and couples who do not fit into the standard model are being photographed for being too close together (when, of course, couples do not need to follow the 6’ rule).
It is easy to get angry and frustrated by this behavior. But I am trying to take a different approach.
Some “pop” psychology books maintain that there are primarily two emotions that govern our behavior—fear and love. People make very poor decisions from fear, better decisions from love.
There is a lot to be afraid of right now. Many have lost their income, especially the lowest paid; retirees who rely on savings have watched the value of their investments decrease dramatically; the disease is deadly; our lives have been ruptured and we have no idea when we will get them back.
Hoarding behaviors, tattling behaviors, angry behaviors are emanating from this fear.
But we can choose if we want to act on our fear. Or, we can exercise control. Eastern religions and philosophies tell us to confront our fear, understand it, acknowledge it and move through it so that we do not have to act upon it.
Yes, I am afraid, I have good reasons to be afraid. I can accept that I am afraid, but I don’t have to act upon my fear. I can choose a different path, to act through love.
I can choose kindness and compassion by buying only what I need not what I am afraid I might need. I can choose love by giving away valuable commodities. I can choose love by donating to those in need.
I see people who have made that choice everywhere. Cash donations to food pantries are up. The local distillery is making hand sanitizer and donating it to residents. My friend gave me a mask. My sister looks for something that I need each time she goes to the grocery store.
Love, compassion and kindness are contagious, much more contagious than any virus.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.