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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: Don't Let The Virus Separate Us Where It Matters Most

Tommy Tomlinson

It feels like someone picked up the remote control of the universe and hit fast-forward. Too many things are happening all at once. That’s what the coronavirus is doing to us. We’re all testing positive for anxiety.

Try to get your mind around it and you end up with a crazy word salad: Tom Hanks March Madness Trump speech cruise ship Rudy Gobert schools closing spring training bear market travel ban.

At this point we sort of know what to do to stay as safe as we can. Wash our hands for 20 seconds. Stay six feet away from strangers. Don’t get in big crowds. Drink a lot of water.

But all that’s mostly about how we take care of ourselves. I’m thinking it might also be a good time to think about how we take care of one another.

You probably know somebody who’s more scared about this than you. Maybe they’re elderly, maybe they’re alone, maybe something like this triggers their fears. This would be a good time to give them a call. Maybe send them an actual note in the mail. Just a little something to let them know you’re out there.

You probably know somebody who’s less well off than you. Now might be a good time to donate to your favorite charity, or send a gift to someone who needs it. And if you do go out, tip big. Servers and bartenders won’t be making much money for a while.

You probably know somebody who cares about how you’re doing. So call your mom and dad, or your sister, or your best friend – whoever needs to know that you’re OK. Or maybe they need to know you’re not OK. A lot of us have the bad habit of plowing through something like this without asking for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

People have been using the phrase “social isolation” a lot lately. What it means, in general, is to stay out of situations where it’s more likely that you might catch the virus. But it has felt for a while now that the whole country suffers from a larger kind of social isolation, where we divide up into little groups – or spend too many hours alone.

The coronavirus could make all that worse. But it doesn’t have to. It’s useful, at this time when we’re being told to separate physically, to remember that we can still be connected emotionally and spiritually. If you step back far enough, we’re all neighbors. Now, especially, it would do us a world of good to act like it.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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