New Perspectives For a Kinder Pandemic Holiday Season

I often share the following wisdom: “Niceness is telling people what they want to hear.  Kindness is telling people what they need to hear.”  Occasionally, kind and nice are the same thing.  This blog is meant to be shared in the spirit of kindness.  As a doctor who takes the teaching part of her role to heart, I would like to share some new perspectives regarding kindness and the upcoming  holiday. 


How can we be kind this holiday season? 

First, view inaction as the action of a hero. What! You say?  How can inaction be called action?  We make choices in every moment.  The choice to do nothing is an action, and now more than ever, choosing inaction takes courage and commitment.  As Americans, we have been raised with the idea that we “must go out and make something of ourselves.”  Action is highly prized, whereas inaction is often misinterpreted for laziness or failure to engage.  We often mistakenly believe that in order to show our love and concern, actions, such as attending funerals and giving hugs, or visiting our loved ones for holidays are the only options for showing that we care.  I would like to propose that we take on a new perspective that embraces, even celebrates inaction as a viable and necessary action demonstrating our deep respect for one another.  Telling our loved ones that we love them so much that we can not come for the holidays this year is, quite simply, heroic.


Let experts be the experts. 

Fortunately, we do not have to figure everything out on our own! With the advent of the internet and Google, there has been a not-so-subtle shift towards everyone “doing their own research” and becoming an expert on everything.  This is not a good trend, as no one, no matter how smart they appear, can be an expert on everything.  Becoming a true expert in anything takes “time in the saddle.”  Experts in various fields, such as immunology, public health, medicine and many other disciplines, did not become experts by simply reading other people’s research or hearing the opinions of others.  They live, breathe, and toil in the arena of their fields, and they can understand nuances and details that no amount of internet “research” can even begin to compare.  For example, when an award winning actor or actress discusses acting, I am very interested in what they have to share, as they have countless hours of experience and have proven themselves to be very good at their trade.  However, if they begin discussing their thoughts regarding fields outside their expertise, listening to it as an opinion, rather than an “expert opinion,” is a wise action.


Two valiant actions you can take.

So, as an expert in medicine, I can share with you two valiant actions you can take over your holiday. (Note: These two simple actions are based on the most recent science as well as over two decades of experience dealing with humans and their behavior regarding their health): 


First, do not gather indoors for longer than 15 minutes with anyone (including family members) who does not physically live with you. Please allow me to make one thing as clear as possible:  while the coronavirus is spreading in the US at the current rate, indoor gatherings of any kind, both with strangers, as well as with trusted friends and family, is a very high risk behavior that can too easily result in inadvertent spread of the virus.  Not visiting family and friends during the next couple of weeks is not about trust, nor is it about “feeling safe.”  It is about doing the right thing this season to protect each other.  Figure out creative ways to interact with your family that does not involve in-person gatherings.  I have had friends who cooked meals over Zoom “together.”  You could do a secret Santa or a holiday dish exchange. My 85 year-old father had his first zoom call over Thanksgiving, and enjoyed it, commenting that he “…had never looked at myself so often for so long…” ever before! 


Finally, when you must go out in public and enter into an enclosed space, wear a mask.  Wearing a mask in the presence of others when outside your home saves lives.  The mask protects the wearer from getting high doses of the virus.  It may not completely protect you from catching the coronavirus, but it can reduce the severity of the illness and keep you out of the hospital.  It can also help you not infect other people if you happen to be in the two days during which you can infect others and not have any symptoms.  Yes, you can actually have the coronavirus and not feel sick!  


So, be kind this holiday season.  Stay home, wear a mask, and live to share healthy future holiday seasons with our loved ones. Cheers.  See you in 2021!