This Version Posted: April 15, 2020
Lisa van der Vinne
HKPR District Health Unit
These are scary, unpredictable times, as COVID-19 causes anxiety over what the future holds for our family and community. Fear can be a powerful motivator to protect ourselves and follow expert health advice, but it can also drive us to unfairly judge, discriminate and stigmatize others.
These days, we’re quick to think the worst of others. Take the story of a woman turned away and shamed by customers and staff at a grocery store for shopping with her children. Leaving the store in tears, without her groceries and feeling unsupported and judged by her community, the woman later shared on social media her frustrations that no one listened to her. She is a single mom and had no one else to look after her children.
We must fight this COVID-19 fear and challenge assumptions we make about people and their choices. Is the woman buying multiple carts worth of groceries hoarding supplies, or is she shopping for her family and older parents? Is the family in the park ignoring physical distancing rules or is it simply getting a break from a cramped apartment? Does the man in line with a cart full of arts and crafts supplies not understand the definition of essential supplies, or is he simply doing his best to keep children at home busy and engaged during this difficult time?
Staying positive is one antidote to fighting COVID-19 fear, so let’s give the benefit of the doubt to the parent in the grocery store, the person with multiple carts or the family in the park. They may have very good reasons for what they’re doing. By assuming the best – not worst – in others, we echo the sentiment ‘we’re in this together’ and allow ourselves to focus our energies on dealing with more serious challenges that truly warrant our fear.