Is the sky falling in?
Who would have thought that in 2020 we would start our first three months in the grip of a pandemic. A pandemic the likes of which the world hasn’t seen in a hundred years?
The sky isn’t falling in but we are certainly experiencing considerable uncertainty and concern. It is, however, apparent that anxiety is spreading faster than COVID-19. Fortunately this is something we can do something about.
We see the effects of anxiety and fear everywhere, especially in the panic-buying of toilet paper, and in the free-fall of the global economy. These are emotional reactions to the situation, having little or no foundation in reason or intellectual consideration. When it comes right down to it, folks are scared. Their fear may be irrational, but it’s real nonetheless just like the chicken in the folktale about Chicken Little.
I certainly don’t want to belittle how people are reacting and believe fear is a natural response. I would, however, like to draw attention to our innate ability to reflect and how this is a time for reflection amongst other things.
When I reflect, I often think about my childhood. Up until recently, I had forgotten the story of “Chicken Little” but remembering it, I felt warm and loved. I could use my thoughts to look back at the times when my parents would read to me in bed with fondness and love.
The folk tale is also known as “Henny Penny” or “Chicken Licken.” It goes back 25 centuries, and like all good fairy tales, fables or folk stories, there is something we can learn. It’s the story about a chicken who believes that the world is coming to an end.
Here is my short version:-
- Once upon a time, there was a little chicken, and everybody called him “Chicken Little.”
- He was out walking one day when a bird flew over and accidentally dropped an acorn that hit him on his head.
- Chicken Little looked up and didn’t see anything, and he looked down and didn’t see anything. So he reacted by thinking the sky is falling in.
- “Help, help the sky is falling! Help, help the sky is falling! I have to tell the King!” And off he went running down the road, looking for the King.
- Chicken Little starts to run around and meets various characters including Henny Penny, Gooey Loosely, Turkey Lurkey, Cocky Locky and eventually Foxey Loxley.
- Chicken Little proceeds to tell each and every one of them
- Haven’t you heard? The sky is falling! The sky is falling! We’re looking for the King!”
- Foxey Loxley quite naturally takes advantage of the situation and eventually persuades the feathered scared friends to his den where he one by one feeds on each and every one of them.
- Chicken Little never got to meet the King and tell him that the sky is falling in.
If we let fear into our minds and hearts, this affects everything we do. If we allow those around us to influence our minutes, hours, days, weeks, we are not ourselves. Even if it feels like the sky is falling in following the crowds or believing everything we see and hear could have negative consequences.
The world is a bit of a mess right now. However, if we focus on our values, our family and communities, this could bring a sense of purpose and reward in exchange for all this change and very upsetting times.
Since the devastating 1918 influenza outbreak, we’ve seen wars, economic volatility, natural disasters including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, fires, floods, and hurricanes.
In recent years we’ve had the threat of a pandemic including SARS and MERS. We did, however, escape this escalating. For the past half-century or so life has continued pretty much uninterrupted by such nightmares. We could be accused of growing complacent and comfortable and used to a supply of our everyday luxuries and way of living.
And then COVID-19 appeared on the scene, and in a few short months, it has shocked us with the speed of its spread. After an initial slow response, during which the world held its breath. We hoped that the virus would be contained within Wuhan or, failing that, within China. Unfortunately, we’re now seeing infection rates climbing around the world.
Deaths from the effects of the virus are escalating too, although authorities disagree on what the actual mortality rate is. It could be anywhere from 1% to 5% depending on who you ask. It’s undoubtedly much higher than that among vulnerable population groups such as the elderly and those with chronic health conditions.
Governments everywhere are reacting to this by imposing travel restrictions, curtailing public gatherings and advising people to stay home. We are encouraged to practice social distancing and improved personal hygiene. These are all valid measures to counter the speed of the spread of the virus. Even if a critic might say it’s too little and too late.
Many media outlets deliver reports of the devastating economic effects of these countermeasures and of the impact of the virus itself, which merely inflame the situation further.
The situation will get worse before it gets better. As the crisis deepens, communities will be forced to come together to support each other. Over the past, 2 million years or so humanity has evolved to be a social species in which individual members rely completely on each other for their survival. In the months to come, we’re going to find ourselves confronting the reality of that.
We’re going to learn that the time of thinking that greed is good, might is right, and people doing only what is best for themselves without thinking about other people is over. We’ll survive this crisis and come out of it stronger. Although we need to remember to treat each other with unconditional and positive regard. To also put our own selfish needs and emotions aside so that we can help others.
We’ve evolved to behave altruistically, and caring about other humans will emerge – It is emerging, quite spontaneously, despite the impression one might get from seeing occasional examples of greed and selfishness that make the headlines.
Many countries, states, and communities around the world are sadly lacking in one vital commodity right now: leadership. We are hearing from politicians who are often clueless about what to do. Other so-called leaders have turned to blame and xenophobic finger-pointing, uttering nonsense about “the Chinese virus” and illegal immigrants.
None of this is addressing the most profound need, which is that people want to feel reassured that civilization is not about to collapse. That although we are facing a global crisis there is a way through it and there is a future to look forward to after it has passed.
And more than that, there are things that we, as individuals, can do to help both ourselves and those around us to get through the crisis.
Fear and unreasoning anxiety have one sure-fire cure, and that is action.
If you are personally feeling anxious, firstly it’s best to stop, take a deep breath, take a step back and think calm thoughts for a moment. Accept that anxiety exists instead of fighting it with recognizing it is here to help. Then by action and using it productively, we can physically move towards doing something to help.
For a community to take action, there requires leadership, and that’s where we can come in. If we can go out into our communities right now, as the situation is unfolding, and start to show some leadership. This can be done by showing concern for others and by helping to initiate arrangements for the support of vulnerable members of the community.
As someone who is living in a new community for the first time or has struggled to become a part of the community, this is the perfect time to get yourself out there. Currently, this is happening in my neighbourhood and it fills me with so much hope and faith.
After the crisis is over, people will remember how the community came together and how good it feels to know that as members of the community we are not alone. After that, there can be no going back to the way things were “before”.
The world is already changing and it’s going to change a great deal more before this is all over. Beyond COVID-19 there is a future, and we have an opportunity right now to shape what that future will look like.
So I encourage you all to take a deep breath, remember what’s important, and then take your values, skills, and experience out there into your community. Show them what a true community, built on mutual respect and shared purpose is.
How I could help
Throughout the COVID-19 emergency, I would like to offer my support. I’d love to hear from you about what’s happening in your community. What have you been doing to help counter anxiety and replace it with hope, faith in each other, confidence in the future, and a shared purpose?
And if you find yourself struggling to deal with your feelings and emotions, PLEASE don’t hesitate in getting in touch.
I help quiet women to speak up, uncover and own their voice and find their unique and powerful messages with a heart to heart coaching. So that they can engage audiences, share their ideas, impress others in all social and business situations and speak up.
Stay safe, stay healthy, care for yourself and support each other, and remember that life goes on even if you run out of toilet paper or an acorn hits you on the head.