Joe Pisani ponders germ tracking and karmic giving
There’s a longstanding debate in our house, well not actually “longstanding,” only since the coronavirus crisis began. And it’s not really a debate. It’s more like a yelling match over a topic of urgent concern, at least to my wife: Whether I should take my shoes off when I come into the house.
When it comes to germs, I’ve often told her that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Anyway, she won the debate after she showed me an article that said the virus can live up to five days on a pair of shoes, regardless of whether they’re Cole Haan, Converse or Thom McAn — remember them?
These are the issues that preoccupy us now that we’re holed up in the house, waiting for groceries from Instacart and then worrying whether the virus is on the bags. Even though I’ve never been a germaphobe, my respect for them has grown considerably in recent months.
I’m changing in other ways, too. I no longer have an obsessive need to read the news because it only gets worse and I want to keep my spirits up. Plus, I’m tired of hearing about the perpetual political arm wrestling between Democrats and Republicans.
I also hate hearing about the latest celebrity idiotic behavior, e.g. actresses who send out bikini pictures of themselves to their followers on Instagram with messages of hope. Or celebrity couples cooking in the nude who share the photos to brighten our day. Narcissism is a virus too, and it turns their brains to mush. We love them anyway, although I wish they’d move to Canada along with their Twitter followers.
With everything that’s going on, I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. I’m reforming. I’m revising. I’m repenting. I’m not going to sit around complaining about the government, the entertainment industry, the governor, the teenager who races up the street in her Subaru precisely at 2:17 a.m. every night, or the landscaper who blows grass clippings in the street. I can’t change them. I can only change myself ... with great difficulty.
My father, who was a recovering alcoholic, was always saying the Serenity Prayer. Like him, I’m trying to “accept the things I cannot change,” and this crisis offers perfect training ground to practice that principle.
I also started asking for the “courage to change the things I can.” What exactly can we change? All of us — young and old, rich and poor, simpleton and genius — know people who need cash, food and companionship, and that list gets longer every day.
I went from knowing a handful of people in need to knowing dozens of people in need. My elderly aunt who lives alone couldn’t get to the pharmacy for her prescription. My cousin who has health issues needed groceries delivered to his door. Another friend was facing eviction. Many more lost their jobs.
One fellow is confined to his room in a senior living facility, and another is stranded in Kentucky and can’t get home. They have one thing in common — loneliness. Actually, they have two things in common — loneliness and fear.
Talking on the phone has always been a challenge for me. I never answered the phone before, but now I do because someone might need something. I also started calling people every day to check on them and to give them someone to talk to.
This crisis demands a few simple things from us. Give more, help more, talk more, console more. The survivors of the Great Depression understood a fundamental truth. If you give, you get twice as much back. If they had one dollar left, they gave it to someone who had even less because they knew it would come back to them. I’m not just talking about money. Give a little from your heart and you’ll get a lot back. Give compassion, give food, give friendship and give time because the smallest acts of kindness reap the greatest rewards.
Joe Pisani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.