Consider snow globes, those self-enclosed landscapes with white ‘snow’ blanketing the ground, houses, and perhaps with models of kids playing, or snow-people built with smiling faces. To take a few moments to look at one might briefly bring some peace and relaxation.
Until you pick it up, and shake-shake-shake that snow globe until you can see nothing but white flakes swirling about, clouding the entire peaceful scene that you know is in there somewhere. And then you set it down again, watching everything swirl round and round, and waiting for things to settle once again.
At times, it may feel as if we are collectively in that snow globe, as if our world has been shaken, obscuring from our views those things that we need (and perhaps took for granted) to help provide a sense of stability, safety, and security in our lives. In some very real ways, that is what many people are going through.
That is what many people are going through, and it might be helpful to wonder just how people are experiencing that.
People are experiencing what is happening in many possible ways. That right there is the first thing to really honour: the idea that we are all experiencing this COVID-19 situation differently. Some connect with others, while still other people withdraw; some check in on their neighbours and friends while others are impatient and tense in line at grocery stores. Some people may be doing all of that at different times.
When we consider how people respond to a lack of stability, safety, and security, there are three aspects to consider: behaviour, perceptions, and feelings. Or, in other words, what we do, what we think, and how we feel. When we see others—directly or through various media—all we can gather is the first of those, behaviours. We see what others do. We hear what they do. We do not see what they think or how they feel. We do not hear what goes on inside of people, perhaps leading to our own perceptions of a ‘rude’ response that then gets generalized into seeing a ‘rude person’. We do not see the person who may be scared, for himself (or herself) or others. We do not see the person who deserves compassion. We may not see someone with whom to empathize; only someone to judge.
Good things can come out of fear too. Even when we see people going out of their way to help others, this too may be a response to deal with their own fear, and in a positive way. That’s why it’s best, especially when the social (or global) snow globe has been shaken, to remember that the vast majority of us are doing our best with what we have. We are trying to deal with what we normally would see without the disorienting ‘blizzard’ right in front of our faces.
And for those of us who aren’t doing our best? For those of us who don’t social-distance, who defy requests and orders to not go to certain places or convene in large numbers? It’s not likely that judgment will help them see through their own blizzard any more clearly. If they are lost in that blizzard of the shaken snow globe, they need a hand, empathy, and assistance. Maybe they could benefit from a change of perspective, and from a safe place where they can be vulnerable and look inward at what is contributing to their seeming defiance.
We are in this together. And that means more than shutting ourselves in and waiting for the storm to pass. It means being aware, vulnerable, creative, and caring towards ourselves, and one another.