pandemic kindergarten

We have learned first-hand this year that some viruses, like SARS-CoV-2, can be especially dangerous—only cancer and heart disease will kill more Americans this year than COVID-19 infections caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Unquestionably, COVID-19 has impacted each of us and our family, friends, colleagues, and community members in various ways. We mourn those who have passed away from this infection. Through all of the disruption, the pandemic has revealed something about our hyperconnected culture that we may have ironically lost: we are all a part of the great community of this planet. Regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation and despite the challenges we have faced and continue to face, we believe that we can unite behind a set of simple philosophies we learned long ago (some of us longer ago than others). In alignment with the evergreen wisdom of Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, perhaps the most important principles we need to know to resolve the COVID-19 pandemic were also learned in kindergarten.

1. Share (everything except your germs). We are only as strong as the weakest link in our family, friends, workplace environment, town, state, and country. Share your thoughts, kindness, and energy with those around you, but do your best to keep your germs to yourself. We are all in this together.

2. Play fair. We are all susceptible to infection; some of us are more at risk than others. We need to work together, irrespective of political views, to ensure that we give everyone a fighting chance by not jeopardizing the health of those at-risk in our community.

3. Clean up our own mess. Each of us is responsible for our own safety habits. We learned to wash our hands before we eat, and now we must learn to wash them after being in public. We can maintain social distancing and wear a mask when appropriate. By taking personal responsibility for our own small actions, we are able to impact those around us in a big way.

4. Say you’re sorry. In this rapidly changing world, we are all bound to make mistakes and to not follow safety protocols perfectly every time; we are navigating uncharted waters and we must learn as we go. When something goes wrong, apologize to yourself and to others, and pledge to do better the next time.

5. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands (metaphorically), stick together (from a distance), and know better days will be ahead.

We are deeply saddened by the losses we each have experienced and frustrated with the deviations and interruptions that COVID-19 has presented. A long-term resolution to this pandemic will occur and our patience will be eventually rewarded.

As we push forward into the coming months, it is important for us to be kind and considerate to ourselves and others. Please support and comfort one another. And, when you need a little extra comfort, you can always rely on another lesson from Robert Fulghum: “warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.”

Caitlyn is a medical writer at Flywheel Partners in New York City. Joel is an associate professor at Rutgers University in Newark.