The well-meaning women and men of the West have been slapped with fear, almost daily, and for almost two years running. They know things have gone too far, but they don’t know how to get back to where they were. Those of us who’ve been less afraid haven’t done a great deal to fix their predicament, and sometimes we’ve made it worse. And so I’m dedicating this post to simple things we can do, to cut through the fear that has gripped our family and friends.
Let’s get right to it:
#1: Start entertaining.
Invite people over for fear-free evenings. Don’t call them that, of course, just invite them over. Any occasion is fine, or just “because we’ve missed you all.”
Don’t ask anyone to wear a mask and don’t forbid anyone from wearing a mask, and pay zero attention to the mask or absence thereof. If they ask beforehand, or at the door, just say, “It’s up to you.” If they worry that some infected person will show up, just say, “We trust our friends to be responsible.” Leave it at that, and remember that anyone asking that question has been worked over by experts… at length. Be gentle.
Then, have a great time. You’ll see everyone loosening up over the course of the event, and you’ll see them re-discover the pleasure of inter-personal communion. It’s a lovely sight, and the more often you can do this, the better. You’ll be breaking some of them out of a cruel dungeon.
If a couple of people get into a vaxx debate or anything similar, break it up right away, smiling at both sides and saying, “That’s not a subject for discussion in our home.”
#2: Get people together to fix the elderly neighbor’s rotting steps, etc.
Within a short drive from wherever you live, there are people who could use some help. So, if the old couple around the corner have some rotting steps, call a pal or two, go through your garages for scrap wood, screws and paint, then just drive over on a Saturday morning and fix them.
The same goes, obviously, for people who need their driveway plowed when it snows, could use a well-cooked meal, or whatever.
As with entertaining (and this goes for every item on our list), do your best to pretend that 2020 and 2021 never happened. Don’t pay any attention to wearing or not wearing a mask, etc. This isn’t the time for those discussions; they can come later.
Doing things for your neighbors illuminates life, making it meaningful, and such things have often gone undone. For ourselves, as well as for those of the old, infirm or down on their luck, these things are godsends.
The atomization of formerly close communities has been a problem for some time, but it has escalated over the past two years. Now’s a perfect time to turn it back around. Everyone wins in this.
#3: Christmas caroling.
It’s almost Christmas, so put together teams for Christmas caroling. You’ll only need a couple of practices, and you don’t need to be trained musicians. Just get people together, get out and have fun. Beside, they’re lovely songs and doing this improves your neighborhood.
If you’re a musician, formal or otherwise, put together some similar friends and have a concert or sing-along at a local church. (Make sure you pick one that’s fear-free.) Choose your pieces, gather your friends and have a couple of practices; then plaster the neighborhood with posters and have fun. You’ll give everyone a chance to get out and to hear some nice music.
#4: Take your business to non-fear establishments.
We all know the stores and services in our areas that are promoting fear, and those who are doing their best to ignore it. Give your business to the latter. But more than that, tell them why you’re giving them your business. But do it gently, so they don’t fear the enforcers. (It’s scary to disobey people who employ armed men.)
On one hand I’d say “tell the places you won’t shop at your reason,” but there’s a chance that they’ll rat out their competitors. So, you can consider it, but default to not doing it unless you’re confident it will help.
#5: Break the rules properly.
If you decide to walk into a store that has “mask only” signs up, there are three guidelines to follow:
- Never ask for permission. If you’re going to do it, just do it. Act like there’s no sign at all.
- Always smile. Be kind and friendly. Smile at the receptionist or clerk and thank them for their help. TV and Facebook have told them that you’re a maniac and even a murderer; let them see that you’re not.
- Be prepared to walk. In any negotiation, you want to be able to walk away. So, be ready for that in advance. Then, if someone gives you the “masks are required” routine, turn it into a negotiation: “Well, I’m tired of those things and [I’m immune, or whatever]. I’d like to buy this, but if you insist, I’ll just hand it to you and leave.”
Again, always be polite. Say “thank you” if they accommodate you or “as you wish” as you walk out.
#6: Start a neighborhood club.
Up until 1980 or so, it was fairly common for young people in ethnic neighborhoods to have their own clubs. These tended to be small affairs in storefronts, run by a dozen or so friends. Members would share the expenses and maintenance of the space. It would be open certain hours and days for informal meetings, dances, and so on.
These would be nice things to bring back, particularly in partly-deserted areas. They would inject a lot of life.
#7: Show appreciation and trust.
This is a far bigger thing than it may at first seem. We are living in a world starving for appreciation. And yes, it’s a big part of fear and isolation.
I won’t go through statistics and stories, but please believe me that a lot of human suffering lies here. Both men and women need to be appreciated, and to express appreciation. Without either of those, our personalities become unbalanced.
Anyone who tells you that showing appreciation makes you a doormat is hurting you; they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Appreciation calls to appreciation. When we show it to others, we move them to express it. And it very definitely slices through fear.