OPINION: Be gentle with each other; we’re all doing our best

A friend of mine sent a really good quote this week: “When we are squeezed, what’s really on the inside comes out. This pandemic has shown the best and worst of humanity.”

It was in response to a complaint I’d had about some nasty posts in the comments’ section of recent local media stories.

(As an editor used to tell me: ‘Never read the comments,’ but in this business, it’s hard not to).

Online forums have certainly never been a friendly place to begin with, but in an already stressful time, it’s disheartening to see such hate-filled rhetoric being thrown around — whether it’s the never-ending mask debate, criticizing parents for their back-to-school choices, or accusing the media of ‘fear mongering.’

There seems to have been a shift in the way we’re treating each other these days. A few months ago, we were lining up to thank our healthcare workers with parades and praise; now we’re seeing folks lined up at city hall, protesting against the idea of wearing a face covering that may help protect their fellow community members from a deadly virus.

It’s clear this pandemic is weighing heavy on everyone.

A recent survey released by Lambton Public Health showed that our mental health is suffering; about one-third of residents say they won’t be able to pay their bills in a month’s time or provide for themselves or their family; three in 10 are facing challenges getting basic supplies like food and prescriptions; and one quarter of residents say they are experiencing loneliness.

“In difficult times, it’s perfectly normal and human to feel distressed, and sometimes overwhelmed,” CMHA Lambton-Kent CEO Alan Stevenson told me this week in an interview about mental health in the community. People are worried about their loved ones, particularly children, those vulnerable to COVID-19, and the elderly — especially those in long term care.

He said, now more than ever, it’s important to have ‘authentic conversations.’

“That is, being open and honest about how you’re feeling; and equally, give support to others,” he said. “We get a good feeling ourselves when we are kind or when we are supporting other people, but equally — and this is a Canadian thing — we’re are more likely to offer support than to ask for it.”

We’re all being squeezed in different ways.

Is kindness alone going to get us through this? Of course not. But it certainly can’t hurt. So, get out of the comments’ section, take care of each other, reach out for help if you need to, and make sure that when you’re squeezed, the it’s the very best of you that comes out.