A Kid's View on Coronavirus: It's A Powerful Lesson in Gratitude
Guest Post by Dr. Anthony Fleg
As a dad, I often turn to my children when facing life's vexing moments. So I did just that.
"Kiddos, what do you think coronavirus is here to teach us?"
My 11-year-old daughter spoke first, "To be thankful for our health. It's reminding us that our health is something very fragile and something we shouldn't take for granted."
I step back from this moment and wonder if she is onto something.
Working as a physician and educator at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and having spent the better part of the last days thinking about the implications of COVID-19 for our New Mexico population down to the level of patients and students, I am thankful for this moment.
If you will allow, I would like to infuse some coronavirus-induced gratitude into the moment in which we find ourselves.
First, a time to see more clearly the importance of the people and communities that sustain us. Reflect on this when (likely today…again!) people in your workplace "huddle" together (keeping a safe 6-foot distance or, more likely, virtually via Zoom or Skype!) to discuss COVID-19 precautions and procedures. It is so easy to work around great people and, distracted by the work to be done, forget to appreciate those doing the work. Reflect on it, but don’t stop there – tell the beautiful people around you how much you value them.
I can't leave this topic without thinking of the epidemic of loneliness that afflicts our society that claims to be so technologically connected. Take a moment to notice the neighbor, classmate, work colleague who does not have a community and invite them into yours.
Second, in a world eternally on fast forward, truncated to 280-character messages, coronavirus gives us a moment to pause, breathe deep, slow down, dig deeper. Self-care – increase the dose! Storytime with your children – increase the dose! Prayer, exercise, and other ways that you connect with yourself and things larger than you – increase the dose!
Start today with the birds and trees outside your house and office that greet you only to have you rush past, routinely, without a nod or smile. Continue with the food you eat. Take a moment to slow down and be mindful of how this food got to your plate. Consume accordingly.
Consider this next few weeks an extended, though more structured, "snow day," and an invitation to slow down to a healthier speed of living than our usual. And since angst and anxiety are among us, spreading like a virus itself, your work to slow down and breathe deep will be good medicine.
Last, a very simple ask of myself and all of us to return to my daughter's advice: gratitude. Make a point today to express gratitude. If necessary, use words. Make your living something the poets and prophets speak of, gratitude in your heart and hands (washed frequently for at least 20 seconds, of course).
In the 100,000 heartbeats, 20,000 breaths, and the 86,400 seconds that make today, take a few heartbeats, breaths, and seconds to give thanks. Increase dosage steadily.
And with those ears, listen to your children and your grandchildren as they often have the best lessons to teach us.
Dr. Anthony Fleg is a proud daddy of four, husband, son, and brother. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, he has called New Mexico home since 2008. He is a family physician and educator at the University of New Mexico's Department of Family and Community Medicine and College of Population Health. He's also a Coordinator/Co-Founder of the love-funded partnership, Native Health Initiative (NHI), and its Running Medicine program.