“Heroes don’t always wear capes, badges or uniforms. Sometimes, they support those who do.” ~ Andrea Randall, author.
If COVID-19 is the bully, I want to be an everyday hero. No, I’m not on the front lines working tirelessly to create a vaccine or caring for those that have fallen ill. You all are truly superheroes. But as we find ourselves climbing up the pandemic’s highest peak, I believe the choices I make for myself and my family can help slow down the spread and relieve some of the burdens our community is facing. And I know I’m not alone – even though some days it feels like it.
The truth is it takes courage to stand up for safety during this pandemic. It takes courage to tell your closest friends and family you’re not comfortable seeing them if they’re not able or willing to quarantine, too. To ask a stranger at the grocery store to properly pull up their mask. It takes courage to stand firm and state your belief that small gatherings pose significant risks right now.
Courage is the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand fear or difficulty. It’s strength in the face of pain or grief.
I was encouraged by a Facebook thread of people in my community. Someone had the courage to ask a group of 5,000 people if anyone else was doing Thanksgiving at home without extended family this year and was seeking ideas on how to make this day special. Seventy-five people responded, “us too”, with dozens of great ideas to create new traditions and persevere old. There were shockingly no naysayers. None. Zero. Zilch.
We find comfort and reassurance in knowing we’re not alone in making tough decisions. And when one person bravely comes forth, others may follow. Here are some ways you can be COVID-courageous and stand up for safety:
- Don’t be shy about speaking up. There’s a chance you may not even align with your significant other about what the best choices for you and your family are. But don’t be afraid to speak what is on your heart and mind. Talk to others and find those that are facing similar challenges or making similar decisions for their family.
- Stay home and share your why. If you’ve made the tough decision to keep your traditional gatherings to your immediate family, share why you’re doing it, what you’re celebrating and how you’re connecting with extended family. Maybe it’s because someone in your immediate family is high-risk or an essential worker. Maybe your kids have had a lot of exposure with school, and you don’t want to put others at risk. You may inspire someone else to make that tough decision yet still enjoy their holiday, too.
- Enforce the safety recommendations for small gatherings. If your family has decided to gather as a small group, ensure the safety recommendations are in place and coordinate plans with the host in advance. Stay outside as much as possible, wear a mask and social distance. While inside, wear masks, social distance and open the windows to increase airflow. Follow the “no more than 10” gatherings and keep them as small as you can.
- Compassionately decline invites to large gatherings. Instead, plan to send a gift with a meaningful handwritten note to the hosts or send a thoughtful food item to help the guests celebrate. You can also organize a way to virtually connect during the in-person gathering for those that will not be attending in person.
- Share the facts to increase COVID awareness. As the Ohio Department of Health, your local hospital system, or city officials share information that resonates with you, share it with your network via social media or email. You, too, can help bring awareness to the current COVID crisis.
- Help enforce the mask mandates. Whether you’re at the park, holiday shopping, or in the presence of family, respectfully and compassionately say something to correct the behavior or alert a team member.
- Be the one to take the lead on virtual, personal connections. If you do feel like the outcast of your friends or family, be the first to find ways to keep connected virtually. Send handwritten cards to your closest friends. Offer up ideas to host a Zoom call and make it happen. It shows you care deeply about them despite not spending time physically together.
I’ve learned two important lessons about myself during this pandemic that may leave you with some food for thought, too, as you decide how you can stand up for safety.
You owe no one an explanation. I found myself babbling for 10 minutes to my daughter’s teacher about why we were pulling her out of school for a few weeks to simply “do our part” because we could manage it at home. Her teacher said, “you don’t have to explain yourself to me.” And I felt an immediate sense of relief.
Resist the urge to judge others. Having the courage to stand up for safety does not give me the right to outwardly judge those that dismiss the safety measures or do them differently. I don’t get a badge of honor. I don’t deserve praise. But I do live with a sense of relief that maybe – just maybe – my choices and courage could save a life.
About the author
Stefanie Ragase is an experienced healthcare marketing and communications manager at OhioHealth with a professional focus in neuroscience, and a personal passion for health and wellness. Her job is to connect people to the right resources at the right time throughout their wellness journey. She brings a unique perspective to her neuroscience communications role as a care partner for her father, a stroke survivor, and her younger sister who lives with multiple sclerosis. Stefanie is a mom to 3-year-old Nora and lives in Lewis Center with her husband, Trey.