3 Ways to Choose Love (Instead of Panic and Fear)

This weekend, I was invited to speak to a large gathering about love. Instead, I’m sitting at my desk writing what’s on my heart, hoping it will find its way to each of you.

I have not been immune to the panic that has moved like wildfire from one end of the globe to the other. As each news story flashed on my screen and diagnoses were confirmed, I could feel my heart retract with fear and apprehension. I’ve watched as people, overwhelmed with anxiety, have emptied shelves in a desperate attempt to regain some sense of control.

With news that this tragedy will only get worse before it gets better, it can be hard to see the light in this very dark dark. But here is what I know of love, the brightest light: It too is contagious and, when practiced, moves through us, changing our hearts, softening the sharp edges of fear, opening our eyes to the grace and goodness inherent in all of us.

At the beginning of each month, I write intentions for myself, reminders to focus my mind and heart. During March, I chose to focus on gratitude with smaller intentions to “do small things with great love,” “look for the lesson and the teacher,” and “notice what is going right.” Little did I know how the meaning of those intentions would change in just two weeks.

As I write this, my eyes burn with tears for the weight we all bear, as well as for the miracle that somehow my heart knew that gratitude and love would be the light and lifeline I needed. Mr. Rogers implored us to look for the helpers when we are scared. I ask you to go one step further and recognize that you are the helper. As long as we can express love and compassion, we are helping. And when we are helping, we are not powerless.

So, as we socially isolate, what can we do? How can we help and express love? Try this:

1. Do Small Things with Great Love

At the store yesterday, I noticed something that might not have caught my attention just the week before. An elderly gentleman stood near the entrance as three young men looked at his list and moved through the aisles collecting what he needed. I’m not sure if they knew each other but their act of love and protection was profound. Passing through each aisle, I noticed generosity as people made space for other shoppers, joked with each other, and smiled in passing. It’s likely that at the same time, in the same store, people reacted and behaved out of fear but my eyes were opened to love and I saw it everywhere.

→ Check on your older neighbors

→ Call your friends and coworkers

→ Share

→ Offer to help those who need childcare, food, or supplies

2. Look for The Teacher and The Lesson

My girls are teenagers. When was the last time I tucked them in for bed or read a book with them? When was the last time we weren’t all rushing to get somewhere? Almost all of the things, places, and people that have previously distracted me have become off-limits. All of the entertainment that we thought we needed has been shuttered. What we are left with is each other. I want to believe that I didn’t need a tragedy to slow me down enough to see what matters—but maybe I did. My people matter. It was never the things we did or places we went; it has always been and will always be them. Slow down, soak in now, hold the people you love close.

→ Put away your phone and computer

→ Go for a walk with your kids

→ Reconnect with your partner

→ Write a thank-you note to someone who has touched your life

3. Notice What’s Going Right

After 9/11, I remember feeling a palpable change in the air. People were gentler with each oth