Lori Nickel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that." — Martin Luther King Jr.
I am paralyzed by so many moments of sadness and anxiety, depression and insomnia, for the damage that coronavirus has already done and for what we in Wisconsin are bracing for it to do that I had to make a drastic, conscious change.
For every negative feeling of despair, I have to create a positive action— no matter how small — to try to balance it out.
So I checked on my mom's best friend. And when I told her I will get her anything from the store — I will wear gloves and drop it off at her apartment, untouched — it made her laugh. And that made me smile.
I could make that offer because my neighbor stuffed some extra medical gloves in my mailbox the other day, even though I told her I was fine with hand sanitizer and pretty much never leaving my house again.
And I started at home projects, like cleaning and caring for the stuff I already have.
Then I looked at the clutter I was purging and that was eye-opening too; we just don’t need more stuff.
And I’ve been watching and listening to stand-up comedy in between all the news consumption because laughing is therapy.
I sent a friend of a friend an e-gift card to Panera because she is an emergency room nurse. She has to leave her kids alone at home so she can take care of those who are sick, and that is a gut punch.
And I have now started daily check-in texts to friends and family.
That has turned into meet-ups for walks in parks and along the lakefront. And plans for more. It feels so good to put an appointment on my canceled calendar.
I am also pausing more than ever to be grateful.
Thankfully, we’re not having one of our winter springs. These mild temperatures mean I can walk with my 73-year old dad next week even if I can’t hug him.
I am grateful that I saw a healthy red fox hanging out in my backyard yesterday. It’s been years since I’ve seen wildlife back there. Was she lingering because she didn’t need to run away from me and my self-isolating neighbors? Or did I just notice because I’m otherwise always too busy to stop and look?
I am grateful for technology. Normally, I am trying to get away from these screens, but my friend Melissa — who works in IT — pointed out that recent years of building cellphone infrastructure has set us up to use the internet in more ways than ever. We have access to education, work and entertainment with videoconferencing and learning management systems. There are more options than a phone call to keep us feeling connected to each other.
And mute buttons have always been great, too.
Another friend, Deb, was inspired by a story she heard. A regular customer walked into his favorite restaurant, bought a $500 gift card — and cut it up. So she decided to buy restaurant gift cards, too, only she dropped them off at a retirement community for the residents to use.
I still worry. Spectrum is offering free internet to students for 60 days (Bravo!). But what about people who can’t afford computers?
And then there were a couple of teachers out for a walk. They were really concerned about their students, who counted on the meals they got at school. How would they get transportation to the schools that were still providing food?
But then another friend of mine, Tanya, posted this on Facebook: “I don't have a lot but if y'all need something DM. It's tough out here and I ain't going to let people go hungry. I can help one or two families with a few groceries. Milk, peanut butter and jelly, a loaf of bread, I have supplies to share. Don't be shamed; these kids need to eat.”
Isn't this extraordinary? She’s a single working mom with a special needs child.
I cling to the bright spots, big and small. Capture Sports Marketing will launch an “Athletes Doing Good Campaign” on Friday for children going through a health challenge who could receive a get-well video from an athlete.
And Silver Circle Sports Events is offering free virtual races to any runner or walker who has signed up for any of its races in 2020.
Another friend, Heather, a lawyer, is going to a client's house to get his health care directives signed because he is at great risk of illness and can't go out.
Nothing good will come from me wallowing in this feeling of helplessness. There is so much to do and so many ways I can give. It’s time to go to work.
Message Lori Nickel on Twitter at @LoriNickel, Instagram at @bylorinickel or Facebook at facebook.com/ChinUpLoriNickel.