Our Coronavirus Response Is Making Us Lose Our Humanity

Our Coronavirus Response Is Making Us Lose Our Humanity

At my local grocery store this week picking up items to help restock a local pregnancy center, I came across an older man looking distressed at the many options of expensive formula in front of him. I asked if he needed help to find what he was looking for, because I know that can be overwhelming. I’ve got eight kids and have spent many hours doing the same thing.

He said he knew what he needed but it was so darn expensive. Yes, it is, I said. He told me he needed to get it for his daughter, who was in town because she lost her job due to the coronavirus.

We parted ways and I just felt a pull to get a couple cans of formula for him, which I purchased, then went to find him. When I gave him the cans, he broke down in tears. He said he had been contemplating how to steal those cans because he’s on a fixed income and couldn’t afford the formula to help his daughter.

Then he embraced me. We didn’t have masks. There was no Centers for Disease Control-recommended distance between us at all.

All we had was our humanity. And that’s exactly what is being lost during this pandemic.

While arguments are breaking out on social media—and in person in some places—about whether people are wearing masks or gloves or keeping their distance, people like this poor gentleman are wondering how they are going to feed their family.

Suicide hotlines are overwhelmed. Unemployment is skyrocketing. Women and children in abusive relationships are stuck at home in a nightmare situation with their abusers. Alcohol sales are through the roof. Foster kids have nowhere to go to be loved and cared for.

Yet we are fighting over masks, sitting in our privileged homes and pounding away on our phones, sending tweets and posting Facebook comments demeaning other people in the harshest of ways. Masks are the last thing a person is thinking about when he cannot make ends meet and is trying to figure out how much rice and beans he can afford with an almost empty bank account.

Our humanity is being lost in endless cycles of cruelty and judgements, both in person and online. Adults are resorting to bully tactics when they don’t get their way or don’t understand where another person is coming from. Can’t we do better than this?

We can donate to local food banks, volunteer to take meals or groceries to the homebound, help stock our local pregnancy centers with diapers and formula, reach out to someone we know who may be struggling with addiction or depression and tell her she isn’t alone.

Seeing that grandfather at the grocery store in all his raw emotion broke my heart. He’s one of so many who are struggling in ways that many of us cannot even comprehend. But we are all human with human emotions and fears and worries. We need to help each other, not tear each other down.

Abby Johnson is a former Planned Parenthood manager who now runs And Then There Were None, which helps abortion workers leave their jobs. She is also the author of “Unplanned.”
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