Gary Horton | Community Mindedness Is Everything Now

The scenes would have been laughable if they weren’t so pathetic, illogical and disappointing. Lines and more lines around Costco’s, supermarkets, and just about any place else to buy stuff. It all started some seven or 10 days ago. 

“There might be a quarantine – we might have to reduce travel!”

And so, hundreds, thousands, piled into our stores and piled out with… mountains of toilet paper and tens of gallons of water. Tee pee and water. To fight against the Zombie Apocalypse. 

Most of us aren’t sure of the logic of such behavior. Good grief, perfectly good water comes right out of the tap. You can bottle it yourself. You can put it in plastic bags. You can drink out of your pool, your neighbor’s pool, or your toilet tank for goodness sake, should it ever get that bad. 

And toilet paper stashed up to ceilings? Well, apparently some have greater needs than others. 

It’s been noted that when we hoard, we hurt others. We create and exacerbate problems that didn’t previously exist. 

We are not at war. Our food supply chain is not compromised. Veggies still grow in the farms, cows still make milk, pasta factories are squeezing out those little curly ones and the straight thin ones and the sea-shell ones. And toilet paper factories are rolling at full speed. 

“Not to worry!” as they say. 

Yes, it is prudent to have two to four weeks of basic supplies on hand at all times. We do live in earthquake country, after all. But if grocery stores suddenly shut and stayed shut (which they haven’t) – we’d have problems far greater than a shortage of tee pee in our water closets. 

I noticed that, first, all the water and paper goods disappeared. For the first few days of this madness, fresh fruits and vegetables went untouched. No toilet paper to buy, but all the salad and broccoli you could ever eat. Not so much by yesterday. No onions, leeks, or potatoes for me. Someone else must have a giant stash, setting to rot in their closets.

Please – slow the fever-pitch purchase frenzy. In the end, all the same amount of food and dry goods will still be delivered to our favorite stores. The hoarders among us will end up the ones with the oldest, spoiling stuff. Then, they’ll have 10 pounds of pasta that never gets consumed.

I’m disappointed about what all this says about us. Fighting over paper towels and cans of beans! I shudder to think what would happen had this virus been a real killer like Ebola. Then what? Looting? Hoarding is but one or two clicks away from looting. And looting, one click from rioting.

It should be noted that in some areas folks were lining up for ammo and guns. So, what about that hungry man knocking on your door for a meal? Would we shoot or would we serve? Hoarding is an insight into our souls of how we feel about our obligations to one another.

Much is said of the SCV being a tight-knit community of family-friendly folks. All this hoarding betrays that social commitment – and some of us have shamed ourselves and a social apology of sorts is well-deserved. To turn over a new leaf of kindness and generosity?

Think, in today’s truly fearful environment, should a hungry man, or woman, or family come to your door asking for a meal or a loaf of bread, or anything of sustenance – would you cheerfully give? How much of our pantry would we share to feed our neighbors as ourselves? 

When we hoard, we’re literally taking from everyone else – “to get ours, before others get theirs, first!” 

Not too cool, in a crisis. And in a crisis, we now exist. Community mindedness is what will save our souls, protect our lives, and uphold our community. 

Community mindedness is everything to us right now.

All around us, our beloved and trusted businesses and restaurants have closed. 

Tens of thousands of SCV residents and workers are idled. There may be some government help forthcoming, but no guarantees — and things move slow. 

Caring, sharing, generosity, friendliness, social-distance-conforming outreach, humanity – all might get into short supply – but we mustn’t let it. 

Let us be agents for kindness. Think of all those in the stores being shoved and buffeted when they need a calm, sane experience. Think of those at home who might need a few things that you might pick up and share. 

Call your friends, call your family members, call and see what we can do, instead of what we can get.

Here, in Awesometown, be awesome, not awful.

One way or another we will pop out on the other side of this. From earthquakes, to jetliners crashing through buildings, to Y2K – and all the rest – we always get through to the other side and normalcy returns.

Let’s behave sociably and humanely and generously, so looking back in one or two months is a source of community pride rather than personal shame. 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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