People always have choices to make. Whether to make a phone call or pick up a new book, whether to send their child to sleepaway camp, whether to hire a tutor, whether to go to a family get-together, whether to go into NYC by train, whether to sneeze into your hand or elbow, whether to wear a mask, and whether to see your family if there’s only a 1% risk of infecting themselves and ourselves are important choices and basically we go from one day to another making choices, often without consciously thinking them through.
We don’t have a choice to breathe — inhale and exhale, in and out. Sometimes we just have to sneeze and can’t hold it in. But in terms of coronavirus, where to sneeze and whether to breathe through a mask are our decisions. Nobody can control our actions but us. I’d hope that people’s actions take others into account.
In the Huffington Post, Richard Koch discusses many of the most important decisions you can make in life (“The 11 Most Important Choices You Can Make in Life”). Some of these are to choose to give money, to save money, to eat healthily, to exercise every day, to read a book every day, to choose a career you love, to choose the right partner, to choose the right friends, and to choose to love yourself.
You can apply the same exercise to COVID-19. You can choose to wear a mask, choose to social distance, choose to get tested, choose to see your extended family, choose to keep in touch by phone with different people every day, choose to use cash and coins, choose to eat indoors at a restaurant, etc. You might be taking too high a risk, but there’s no certainty. And everyone has to decide for themselves what they feel comfortable doing.
Weddings are a big decision in the time of COVID. You have a choice to get engaged, and without the typical fanfare, get married and start your life together. Or you can push off your engagement so you’ll be able to have all the parties that go with an engagement. However, I don’t much believe in pushing off a wedding. I think it’s a bad luck. If you’ve met the right person, don’t push off what could be the best thing in your life.
My niece in Israel got engaged and she’s getting married in two months. Israel isn’t doing so well with COVID so my niece and my sister-in-law got the most important things taken care of the first week of the engagement. Life changes. Things don’t always stay the same. You do what you have to do. Their choice could have been to wait to see if Israel opens up, but they decided to move ahead.
During the challenging days that we are facing in the COVID-19 era, a ‘we culture’ is more important than ever: We are all in this together,” explains Dr. Isaac Prilleltensky of University of Miami in his article(“Meaning and Mattering in the Age of COVID-19.”
“Viktor Frankl acted according to his principles. Despite imminent danger, he chose to stay in Vienna to look after his parents. Although he could have fled to the United States, he made a decision to remain in Austria. A few months after he let his visa to the U.S. lapse, he was sent to Auschwitz in 1942.
“Fifty years later, in the preface to the 1992 edition of his famous book Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl recounts the dilemma he faced. Had he immigrated to America, he could have continued to develop his thriving career. But doing so would have meant abandoning his mother and father.
“The Jewish psychiatrist chose responsibility over opportunity. He paid dearly for his choice: several years in concentration camps. He embodied a ‘we culture,’ one in which rights are balanced by responsibilities, and the well-being of the individual is balanced with the well-being of the community. In the concentration camp, he felt it was his responsibility to look after other prisoners. He derived meaning by focusing not only on his own survival, but in helping others.”
There are many choices to be made by the government: Do we open pools? Do we open schools in the fall? Can we get together with people who have immunity? Will we be able to travel on airplanes soon? These are just a few of the ultra important questions that we the people need answers to.
What about feeding the meters? Chase Bank on Central Avenue is still not open and I am short of coins and certain bill denominations. Maybe not super important, but the meter maids are working once again.
In “Decision Making in Uncertain Times,” Andrea Alexander, Aaron De Smet, and Leigh Weiss write for the McKinsey & Company: “The typical approach of many companies, big and small, will be far too slow to keep up in such turbulence. Postponing decisions to wait for more information might make sense during business as usual. But when the environment is uncertain — and defined by urgency and imperfect information — waiting to decide is a decision in itself.
“When asked what makes a great hockey player, Wayne Gretzky is said to have answered, ‘A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.’ That is easier said than done. In a crisis atmosphere, it is tempting to jump from one urgent task to the next, to take charge of what’s right in front of you — to just execute. Yet this can be a tragic mistake. Research shows that the simple act of pausing, even for as little as 50 to 100 milliseconds, allows the brain to focus on the most relevant information.”
So when we make choices about what to do in the time of the coronavirus, we have to make swift but somehow thought-out choices. Think about what is safest for you and, more importantly, the people around you. You know what risks you are willing to take, but by being lax, you could be putting other people in danger.
Please make the best choices. While making your choices, think about everyone you know and care about before you decide not to wear a mask on Central Avenue.
I implore you my readers, please be careful. Please keep the face of someone you care about in your head at all times. Maybe this will help you make the best choices possible. I hope you have a healthy week and may we conquer the coronavirus soon.
Michele Herenstein can be reached at email@example.com.