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It's April and Things Are Getting Surreal!
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4/2/2020 at 7:35:21 PM GMT
Posts: 23
It's April and Things Are Getting Surreal!

It’s April Fools Day, and one could conclude that old Mother Nature is playing a cruel joke on all of us, through the COVID-19 pandemic we’re all experiencing. The interesting thing in all of this (I say interesting, because ‘funny’ just doesn’t seem appropriate any longer) is how the pandemic is affecting society, and how we each behave in very different ways, given the gravity of the situation.

The range of behaviors from individuals across the globe has been enlightening, to say the least. Some of the reactions were entertaining, at times, and others put the exclamation point on the word Pandemic! All of them served as a wake-up call, as we’ve witnessed the best and the worst of society.

A few things struck me as most impactful. First, the variety of risk tolerance exhibited by people interpreting the same set of facts. At a time when others were planning to cancel gatherings, even before the instructions to do so were issued, I found myself advocating for ‘business as usual’. What some perceived as ‘being cautious’, I perceived as an over-reaction, or perhaps just a premature response. History has spoken on this question, and there is no doubt about who was right and wrong! We learn so much about ourselves through trying times!

The next thing I observed was the level of opportunism that came into play. It started with toilet paper – yes, toilet paper. Now, there is no shortage of toilet paper in the world, and certainly no obstacles to producing as much as demand would require. Yet, you cannot buy toilet paper unless you get very, very lucky. Nor can you buy disinfectant cleaners, paper towels, or, in many cities, hamburger. I never believed, in my lifetime that buying a pound of hamburger would be cause for celebration. Yet, here we are. What many perceived as a hoarding problem, rooted in fear, social media quickly taught us was actually opportunism – as the pop-up shops started appearing on social media feeds offering these products at unheard of prices. Yes, individuals were buying up the supply and using the pandemic as an opportunity to gouge the public, to the point where if you wanted these products you needed to capitulate to the price gouging or be prepared to take your chances in long lines at the grocery stores, hours before they open each morning. Fortunately, Amazon sells a DIY bidet kit for $30 which could be a viable alternative to the $50 being charged for a 4-pack of toilet paper.

We saw many people use the pandemic to push their political or social agendas. Very early on legislators starting drafting legislation to challenge established case law, through denial of controversial medical services, restrictions on medical professionals, and challenges surrounding the separation of church and state. Many individuals participated in the mass spread of propaganda informing the public that the pandemic is punishment for being unfaithful, disobedient, and for the challenges by many to the Second Amendment. Thus, began a run on guns and ammunition, as if these might end the pandemic. Doctors’ offices closed as laundromats remained open. Banks shuttered their doors while payday loan companies operated, business as usual.

The responses to the pandemic were not all negative; overwhelmingly we saw a unification of the public around certain causes or behaviors. People, keeping a safe six feet apart from one another, took to the sidewalks for song and dance parties each evening. Birthdays for children and the elderly were celebrated, not with a party or gathering, but with drive-by visits or signs and greetings from the roadside or sidewalk. Children visited beloved parents and grandparents through closed windows, just to enjoy the sight of one another. Nurses, most of whom earn about half the salary I was earning in IT at the start of the year, suddenly became our most valued (though underpaid) heroes. Even without adequate protective gear, we see our medical professionals working 18-hour shifts, tending to the sick and dying, and in many cases providing the most important service of all, coordinating video calls to the families of those dying in isolation, so loved ones can say their goodbyes from a safe distance and so people dying alone might not feel quite as alone. Grocery store workers, who were previously somewhere around the bottom of the respect food-chain, suddenly became our heroes as they restocked shelves each night, sanitized surfaces to protect us as we shop, and who clean the carts and the parking lots of discarded gloves, masks, and used disinfectant wipes.

And finally, we saw innovation and commitment, as the field of risk management, determined to be an essential service, and our members struggled to find new ways of servicing their customers and keeping their businesses going, while balancing the need to isolate and distance. Managers and employees who once believed that work could never be productive when conducted at home, suddenly found themselves and their coworkers doing their job in exactly those circumstances. Technology challenged individuals quickly got up to speed on video conferencing tools, virtual desktops, and a variety of connectivity hurdles. Those who had been previously labeled as resistant to change suddenly found everything around them changed, and workers adapted quickly and effectively. For IAIP members, regional conferences which were forced to cancel are being reorganized as virtual events, ensuring that IAIP members can still enjoy connections with their fellow risk management professionals. What will these look like? We’re going to find out!

Perhaps the most profound response I noticed was the coming together of people, in a united effort and with a common caring for one another. Friends who had lost jobs through the shutdowns quickly pivoted and volunteered time to sew masks for first responders, cook and deliver meals to those working to serve the public, celebrities reading books to kids via Facebook live, musicians organizing free online concerts, and the release of complimentary movies, shows, museum exhibits, and other cultural and educational attractions to benefit those locked in the house, yearning for stimulation. Generosity presented itself in abundance.

We saw friends checking in on one another to make sure we’re okay. Younger generations calling on their parents or grandparents to help them get through the social isolation. The many text messages I received each day from IAIP members who had learned I had been sick for a few weeks and the many offers to help out in any way possible. Younger IAIP members checking on older members to offer a friendly smile; older IAIP members checking on younger members to do the same.

While its true that hard times can bring out some ugly moments in all of us, it’s also true that in these times we show our grit, find opportunities to become our best selves, and set aside differences so that we can celebrate what is valuable and right in all of us. Through this pandemic, we’ve found in ourselves kindness, generosity, innovation, tolerance, and flexibility. Perhaps there is truth to the proposition that COVID-19 has brought us back to the things that are important – the love of family, the safety of home, and sanctity of service, and the resilience of hope.

Perhaps, most importantly we’re learning not to sweat the small stuff. Sure, many of us have lost our jobs at a time when opportunities are scarce, employment has gone from its highest state to its lowest in a matter of 30 days, an invincible people have been humbled and now worry for the lives of their loved ones, and working parents who previously juggled careers by day and families by night are now doing all at the same time, as if they’d prepared for this all their lives and have quickly ‘retooled’ to become home educators as well.

To some, things might seem pretty dire, and things will get harder before they get better. But we have our homes, we have our families, we have each other, and we have toilet paper. What more can a girl ask for? May your April be healthy, happy, innovative, and enlightening!

Cindy J. Prud'homme, AINS, CPIA, CIIP, CLP
International President 2019-2020
Home Email:
Cell: 810-282-7089

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