I have my curmudgeonly side and I don’t always like being told to see the bright side of things. I enjoy a good wallow in misery. But the misery of the Covid pandemic is sustained and severe. We share funny things to lighten the day – jokes, cartoons, animal videos, kids doing kid things. We watch streaming performances of uplifting cultural events like opera and theater. We go on virtual museum tours. We listen to live streaming of religious services, particularly in this past week when many were celebrating Passover or Easter week.
Last week the Hearing Loss Association of America, #HLAA, offered a free webinar with Michael Harvey, a clinical psychologist in Framingham, Mass. and the author of Listen with the Heart: Relationships and Hearing Loss and The Odyssey of Hearing Loss: Tales of Triumph.
Dr. Harvey’s talk, titled “Coping with the Coronavirus (Part 2)”, was an interactive seminar on what ” Covid 19 has to Offer Beyond Hardship and Fear.” He began by discussing how some wise people like Nelson Mandela dealt with isolation. He quoted a veteran of the Bataan death march. And he also quoted some of the comments from listeners to Part 1, many of whom had their own wise observations to make.
Much of what we in the hearing loss community have focused on are the disadvantages specific to people with hearing loss: of isolation, of the difficulty of understanding people wearing masks, and so on. Dr. Harvey focused on the positives.
What Dr. Harvey was talking about, however, was a little different. He was asking us to see actual benefits from the experience of living through this pandemic. Some were predictable (though no less valuable for that): more time with family and friends, more time for books and culture. Some mentioned the particular intimacy of video chats and phone calls. One said that – as someone with hearing loss – her (or his) prior experience of isolation was preparation for this more dire isolation: “If the situation becomes more restricting, I’m prepared for it. I’m ahead of the curve.”
I live in New York City and one of the benefits for me is the quiet that has descended on my residential neighborhood. We hear a lot of sirens, but there is no plane or helicopter traffic overhead, very little car noise, not many trucks, no construction. Very few people are out and those who are out are social distancing. So it’s surprisingly peaceful.
At night, at 7 pm, the city opens its windows to cheer for our health care workers with clapping and song and banging pots and pans. In the quiet city, the sound seems to come up out of nowhere. You can’t see many other people, but because there’s no other noise the empty streets and buildings resound with the noise. Many people with hearing loss are sensitive to noise, I know I am. Being in a noisy place is exhausting. But this noise is different. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, the Psalm tells us. This is a joyful noise. We’re still here. Thank you, health care workers.
Some are juggling work from home while taking care of young children or supervising the remote-schooling of older kids. Some are taking care of sick or elderly relatives on their own, or worried about finances, or sick with the virus themselves, or grieving losses. And many, of course, are out doing those essential jobs, risking their health for the rest of us. But for many of us, especially people who are older, this is a time without distractions, without the daily activities that used to consume the day: without meetings, commuting, doctors’ appointments, exercising, playing and watching sports, shopping.
“We help ourselves by helping others,” Dr. Harvey said. “If we contribute to the betterment of other people’s lives, it feeds our soul as well.”
We do this by reaching out to friends and family to check on how they are. (Even more so if we reach out to the ones we dread calling for one reason or another.) We do this by sharing our experiences in webinars and Zoom meetings. We do this by observing the rules: by staying indoors, wearing a mask if we have to go out, staying well away from others, washing our hands. One friend of mine made masks by the dozens and distributed them to her neighbors. Others offer to shop for people who can’t go out. Pet adoptions are way up: let’s hope those adopters keep their commitments once the pandemic is over.
And don’t forget the power of a simple thank you. Thank your mail carrier. Thank your garbage collector. Thank the person checking you out at the supermarket. Thank your pharmacist for offering to make a delivery. Thank the bus driver. You can thank them by your actions as well: put your garbage out neatly, clear the junk mail out of your mailbox, have your money ready at the checkout counter so the checker can speed you on your way and shorten his or her own exposure to whatever germs you may be carrying.
If you have other examples of ways we can contribute to the betterment of others’ lives, please share them here. Check out HLAA’s other webinars, including Dr. Harvey’s Coronavirus Part 1.
For more about living with hearing loss, read my books, available at Amazon.com and maybe at your favorite bookstore or library. If they’re not there, ask for them.