Like a bad dream, IT seemingly came from out of nowhere. Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, an import from China that escaped the tariffs, suddenly appeared.
Economists and stock-market watchers refer to such a totally unforeseen happening as a “black swan” event — such a complete shock and jolt demanding attention.
We heard about the illness shortly before the new year, but in the past two weeks or so, the pace of its spread and killing power could no longer be ignored.
News accounts told of its origin in Wuhan, specifically in a market where live animals — including koalas, snakes and bats — were sold and prepared as food. Somehow, the virus passed to human beings, and the disease has spread from China to Europe to North America.
This was not supposed to happen. Spring was coming. Robins were returning, and the few citrus trees in the area blossoming. All the while, investors on Wall Street pushed stock prices ever higher. In a booming economy with record low unemployment and strong consumer demand, it seemed the law of gravity had been repealed. Maybe what goes up does not come down, some reasoned.
And then, we began to hear about people in Italy in a frenzy to buy food, bath tissue and hygiene supplies. Shoppers there snapped up bathroom tissue, hygiene supplies and food then, expecting rampant shortages of those commodities later. They concluded later was coming sooner.
That panic spread to our shores last week. Within about three days, American consumers began stripping the shelves of their stores of paper goods, bleach, sanitary wipes, bottled water, canned meat, snack food and pasta. Your neighbors — and perhaps you yourself — joined the stampede to stockpile what you could. The herd mentality was at work, and the mass fears produced a self-fulfilling prophecy.
To make matters worse, some people tried to turn their overabundance into obscene profits. Amid shortages and looming unemployment, the last thing we need is a black market in essentials.
Maybe there is a lesson in all this madness. When sanity and normalcy return, people should consider buying small extra quantities of food and other items, a little bit at a time, rather than waiting to join the rush when demand is high and supplies are dwindling.
Some churches urge members to store food — just in case an unplanned illness or job loss comes about. There is a middle ground between doing nothing to prepare for the worst and last-minute dog-eat-dog hoarding. Prudent preparation beats panic purchasing. Perhaps the Amish and the survivalists have it right, after all.
For now, consider the following:
— Be thankful for what you have. Quit bellyaching. Things could be worse.
— If you are in quarantine, catch up on reading and decluttering your home and life. While some people obsess over the stock market, take stock of your own life, including your spiritual condition.
— Show your gratitude by sharing your blessings with others less fortunate. Try a little kindness and compassion. After all, tomorrow you may need help from the person you help today. Invest in today, in the hope of tomorrow.