As a family of hoarders, we did it before it was cool. Bags of drab, dusty, hand-me-downs line our living room. My eighth-grade science final–like most of its compatriots– sits in my garage atop a bag of basketballs from the glory days. So, when it was time for my family to clear out Ralph’s canned food section, my best friends didn’t even bat an eye at our behavior. It was second nature.
But my family isn’t alone. In the New York Timesarticle, “Panicked Shoppers Empty Shelves as Coronavirus Anxiety Rises,” author Corina Knoll describes the global pandemic’s effects as both “uncharted territory” and “apocalyptic,” all leading to her emphasis on the reassuring “panic shop.” Knoll posits that shopping in this manner is a frantic effort to maintain autonomy over our lives or simply just to stay calm amid the epidemic.
Whether Americans flood into Walmarts for cold medicines or milk, this trek into the unknown challenges all people worldwide. Andy Yap of Insead University’s “The Psychology Behind Coronavirus Panic Buying” claims that it’s based on a ‘herd instinct’ caused by social media- if others are worried, then I should be as well. But does this tendency bring out the best of humanity?
Sure, it’s human nature to value yourself over others. But when this selfish method of thinking intrudes on others, it becomes unjust.
You see, my family’s act of panic shopping for everything, from severe weather in Los Angeles (rain) to a life-threatening epidemic, piles up. As hundreds of thousands of families like mine head straight for the canned tuna, it leaves many struggling to live healthy lives.
Isn’t it justified though, to feel out of control when a pandemic sweeps the globe at a furious pace?
Well, no, not exactly. The value of our lives shouldn’t be diluted to how much toilet paper we have, and this new social landscape places the power in the wrong places. Thankfully, in these moments, when savagery rules the shelves, my family found solace in reading up on the virus and finding reasons to stay calm.
What we recognized was that when we allowed ourselves to become pre-occupied by our tumultuous hoarding efforts, it became easy to forget friends, neighbors, and those that made life worth living.
Now we have a growing number of families across LA County networking to get food to each other, and I hope that Americans from all walks of life will take note. Many have stepped up to help the community, and this selfless movement needs to be continued. Because without those outside our homes, life becomes as exciting as a bag of deflated basketballs from third grade.