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Keep calm and share on: Coronavirus should not keep us from doing good in the world

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

Bodacious got a coupon in the mail last week. She held the bright pink card to her nose, closed her eyes in reverence and inhaled deeply.

“Mom,” she sighed. “Bath & Body Works is having a sale.”

She has Batman's hearing and a Charmin Ultra Soft sensibility. Leave her some toilet paper for goodness sake!

I had to laugh. I remember feeling that way when I was in college. Layering the body wash with their matching lotions and sprays made me feel so feminine, so worldly. As if Plumeria was the very height of sophistication! Later, Cucumber Melon became my signature spring scent, because who doesn’t like to smell like a fruit salad when it is sunny outside?

We made a date for a girls-only shopping trip after school ended on Friday. As soon as we went through the doors, my baby was in heaven. She tried lotion after lotion, stopping to wash her hands after each sample. She loves overly sweet, candy-scented fragrances. Fortunately for me, the store was having a buy three, get three sale. She got Margarita Cupcake and I got one of my old favorites.

As we wound our way toward check-out, we stopped to peruse the “manly” hand sanitizer scents. My son was out, and it sounds as if cold and flu season is sticking around. I like for him to have hand sanitizer in his school backpack just in case he needs to wash his hands but he isn’t near a sink. We were trying to pick one when another mother-daughter duo literally knocked us out of the way.

They were breathlessly telling the young store clerk that they needed more hand sanitizer to ward off the dreaded coronavirus.

“We’ve been everywhere, and no one has any sanitizer left,” the teen said. “I even looked on Amazon and they are out!”

The mother then proceeded to dump a completely ridiculous number of hand sanitizer bottles into her basket. They began to speak more and more excitedly about the impending doom and devastation brought on by the coronavirus.

Bodacious, who has Batman hearing, began to look terrified, eyes wide and lips quivering. I decided to intervene. In my naturally cheerful and helpful way.

“You need to wash your hands more often,” I offered good-naturedly as I grabbed one bottle of Midnight for Men hand sanitizer and then walked away.

But those two aren’t the only ones hoarding supplies like water, hand sanitizer and paper goods. Friends across the country have posted pictures of empty store shelves. And I even saw a viral news clip of three adult women having a fist fight over a 12-pack of toilet paper. A full-on brawl with screaming, cursing and hair pulling. Y’all. It wasn’t even Charmin Ultra Soft!

It hurt my heart to see. I hurt for the woman that was attacked, that kind of trauma will haunt her. And I hurt for the other two who were so frightened about world collapse that they were willing to hurt another human being over something as lowly as toilet paper.

It will not be this fancy version of the flu that cripples civilization. It will be civilization itself -- the uncivil masses and the fear mongers -- that brings us to our knees.

I have friends that have been forced to cancel once-in-a-lifetime trips to Italy. Others are terrified to look at their retirement investments as the stock market rollercoasters about. And plenty of folks are nervous about spring break trips with their littles. And I get it, really, I do. No one wants to go broke or get sick. But we have to be strong and we have to hang in there.

We have already battled flu, strep, the stomach bug and bronchitis at my house this season. My wonky immune system seems to be catching everything. But the threat of coronavirus won’t keep me from doing the things I want to do. Nor will it make me buy 100 cans of pork and beans, 40 gallons of water and all the toilet paper at Target. It will, however, keep me out of jungle gym ball pits, away from buffets and salad bars and from traveling to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy. That’s just good common sense.

But I refuse to live in fear. That’s not living. God made us to love and to do his work in this world. So wash your hands, stay home if you feel unwell and don’t be around people unnecessarily if you have a compromised immune system. Always share your toilet paper when you see someone in need. And if you smell like Cucumber Melon whilst you do it, well, that’s even better!

Melanie Nicholas is a mother, writer and full-time fighter of grime and insecurity. You can follow her on Instagram @realmelanienicholas and Facebook.

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