How to SHELTER in place

Today, March 23, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine’s order to ‘stay-at-home’ goes into effect in Hamilton County and in the entire state of Ohio starting at 11:59 PM. This order is to remain in effect for the next two weeks, that is until 11:59 p.m. on April 6, 2020. It is possible that the order could be rescinded before then or modified before it expires. Similar orders have been executed by numerous Governors, Commissioners, and Mayors across the country as the nation grapples with the novel coronavirus. These are truly unprecedented times. Thankfully, it has been encouraging to see the Hamilton County Commissioners, the Mayor of Cincinnati, and local leaders take commendable steps for the health of our community.

Humanity has not experienced anything like this in our lifetime. The international cooperation that is taking place to contain this virus is heartening. At the national level, we are seeing an amazing coordination operation taking place. As a resident of Hamilton County, I care deeply about people who have been impacted by this situation. As I reflected on it, some ideas came to mind that should provide guidance to others who are under similar orders. Using the first letters of the word SHELTER, here are some thoughts that you can easily remember and can provide a neatly packaged way for knowing what to do:

S — Stay inside

The primary purpose of a shelter-in-place policy is for people to stay inside. This has been the toughest challenge for most of the people that I know. The need to keep the processes of life moving forward hinges significantly on the opportunity to be outside. However being outside, in a way, is part of the reason why this virus is here. As a matter of fact, French writer and theologian Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”. While staying inside may not necessarily mean ‘being alone’, it engenders a sense of disengagement from the processes of moving life forward. None of us want to be engulfed in the boredom of staring at four walls. But in the interest of our health, it is necessary that we stay inside. The stay-at-home policy is not just guidance but a mandatory order. So, let’s do it.

H — Help the children

The beauty of staying inside for most of us is that we get to invest more time than usual with our most precious and loved ones. For my wife and me, that is our children. During their regular school year, they spend almost 8 hours a day with their teachers and we get to see them for only about 3 hours each evening. Given the nature of our professional daytime roles, that time is even more limited when we must hustle with all the evening chores. Our attitude during this current situation, as always, is to help our children. We are their primary teachers. It is a delight to structure their day and to play with them as they take breaks in the backyard. We realize that we are having the best of times at the worst of times.

E — Engage virtually

Thankfully, we live at a time when the digital revolution has enhanced our overall quality of life. My wife and I are transplants to our city. We have family in other parts of the country and across the globe. The distance makes it impossible for us to see our loved ones as often as we would desire, so we always have stayed in touch through phone calls, video calls, and social media. As this virus spreads in communities across the United States and across the world, we are finding ways to engage through increased calls and social media interaction with family and friends. My wife has in the past jokingly recited George Burns’ famous quote, “Happiness is having a loving, close-knit family, in another state,” but as we chatted last night, we both acknowledged that at this point we wish all our extended family were even closer!

L — Limit travel

Many shelter-in-place policies do not cover airports but obviously it is unwise to plan any non-essential travel at a time of an emergency of this nature. While we are always thrilled to travel and see family every couple of years, many of our local friends on the Westside of Hamilton County travel to see family around the neighborhood numerous times throughout the week. For instance, our next-door neighbors were both brought up in the city and have relatives all over town on both sides of the family. However, the limited travel that is allowed for the regular citizen is essential trips for groceries, pharmaceutical drugs, medical appointments, banking, postal runs, and automobile supplies. More detailed information can be retrieved from the Governor’s website.

T — Think wisely

In times like these, wisdom is truly the principal thing. One of the challenges of staying inside is a tendency, for some, to rely heavily on talk radio, opinion shows, and Internet news for one’s information. Unfortunately, some of the information that has been propounded in different media has been and continues to be very unhelpful. Wisdom may require just turning off all media, sitting quietly in a room alone, and just thinking for oneself. In our generation of sound bites, one must truly ensure that all sources of information are trusted and fully reliable. Walking in wisdom requires being smart and doing the next right thing. In times of misinformation, this requires reliance on clear expertise that is grounded in the knowledge of credentialed leaders. To keep the foundation of grounded knowledge from being shaken, one must guard his or her heart carefully.

E — Exercise daily

One of the emergent realities of this moment is that physical health is critically important for the success of a nation and its people. Beyond that, what we are realizing is the need for good mental health. It has been troubling to read about the emotional toll and anxiety that this situation is generating in private lives and in the public sphere. For families that have lost loves ones across the country and around the world, the pain is unimaginable. Our hearts go out to all those families that have been affected and to individuals who have tested positive for coronavirus. As we continue to be in good health while staying inside, it is essential that we embrace a rhythm of daily exercise. Last week my wife conducted a Facebook Live Community Mindfulness session as she continues to provide personal coaching to a number of clients in her private practice. As we exercise our physical bodies daily, our mental health will also improve.

R — Remember the shelterless

Above all, as we shelter in place, we must remember that there are many who are, in fact, shelterless. As one who served people experiencing homelessness in a shelter, I am deeply conscious of the truth that it is important to show empathy for the marginalized. In a time of crisis, almost all of them are unable to follow some of the orders that govern the sheltered society. They are much more vulnerable than you and I would ever be. And, among the population of people experiencing homelessness, there are those who are completely shelterless — not in a shelter program. Some of them already experience tremendous social distancing and yet are extremely vulnerable to a pandemic like this one. They are not in any shelter and so are completely unable to be covered from any epidemic. We must remember such individuals. Some of them live in encampments, some in abandoned buildings, and some under the bridges of our cities. I know some of their stories. We, as a society, must reach out to them as we practice shelter in place.

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