By Katerina Gianoulis, Class of 2023
Editor’s note: Katerina completed this assignment regarding her experience during the COVID-19 global pandemic in early May 2020. Readers should be aware that some observations in this piece are a reflection of what was happening at that moment in history.
The spread of COVID-19 has had a wide range of effects. From how we are performing everyday activities to what we are seeing through the media, the consequences of coronavirus have had a toll on everybody in unique ways. Below, I highlight four values that coronavirus is changing and how they have affected my generation.
Material Values Are Shifting
The values we put on physical things have changed. Utah, home to the world’s biggest Costco, has run out of many supplies, including tissues, paper towels, and, yes, toilet paper. One thing I’ve noticed about these supplies and the general public is the immediate panic and overwhelming feelings—almost a mentality that we are all going to die. It’s scary and it really does rub off on people. I started to actually get scared because of the shortages of supplies covered by the news. Commercials are now telling the public not to worry about toilet paper, and that there is, in fact, according to Cottonelle toilet paper brand, “enough to go around,” and if you are generous, to “please #ShareASquare.” I wonder what the cartoon bears in the old toilet paper commercials are thinking. What’s happening to their one and only prized possession? How do they feel about it running out of stock all over? It is very important to stay safe, but neighbors of mine, at the beginning of the pandemic, left for one last huge trip before quarantine. They returned after picking up a very interesting device: a straw purifier. Yes, one of those gadgets that helps someone survive when stranded, allowing them to take in safe drinking water from lakes or rivers. If I’m not at home, you can find me at the Great Salt Lake, floating with my straw purifiers. The reason I bring up supplies is because I want to show how this panic has manifested in the purchase of supplies you would need to survive in the wild. Our material obsessions have shifted onto such unexpected objects.
But real-world effects can also have positive outcomes. Some effects due to coronavirus have been pretty good for the earth, like reduced pollution. Fei Liu, who is an air quality researcher for NASA, observed the levels of nitrogen dioxide that produce pollution in Wuhan, China. She stated, "This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event.” Another researcher on energy and clean air, Lauri Myllyvirta, talked about the pollution levels in China, saying, "It is an unprecedentedly dramatic drop in emission." This massive decrease in pollution is amazing for the environment, and we are starting to see some real-world effects of the virus. People have been outside more in their physical environments, which has also increased the value we place on our green spaces.
Communication Is Changing
Face-to-face communication is something this virus has changed, and I believe that it will make people more thankful for it in the future.
One strong and direct value that has been modified during this time is communication. It’s very weird not being in school. All social and physical interaction has changed, and up until now, I honestly hadn’t realized how much I took for granted actually being around people. Face-to-face communication is something this virus has changed, and I believe that it will make people more thankful for it in the future. I personally feel bad for my dog, for example, who can’t go up to other dogs during walks and can’t be petted by other people.
I did some research on the dos and don'ts of society while the COVID-19 pandemic exists, and according to heart.org, “In lockdown, or with a ‘shelter in place’ order, venturing out for other than government-allowed reasons could carry a penalty such as a fine or arrest.” I know for sure Europe has cracked down on the public harder than they have here. I have family in Greece, and they cannot leave the house for anything. People who leave their houses require specific documents containing a valid reason why they should be out, and police officers will ask to see those papers. Although strict rules like these are strange for everyone, governments all over the world have been acting quite responsibly and taking these matters very seriously.
Aside from social interaction, larger relationships, like the coming together of people, have been a big deal. Rowland Hall biology teacher Rob Wilson said he “hasn’t experienced anything like this since 9/11.” Wow. By this, Mr. Wilson meant the immensely strong world response and coming together of people. To think of times like these being compared to an incident as big as 9/11 completely astonishes me. In a way, this coronavirus pandemic unites people; we all want to get better and increase our global overall well-being. Nowadays, with social media and easier and increased communication, it is super easy to be opinionated and influenced about almost everything. On the other hand, everyone has the same interest with COVID-19, which is to get better. The world hasn’t stuck together and shared the same opinion on something in a long time, up until now.
Compassion Is Spreading
A result of people coming together has included putting the needs of the community before your own. For example, many of us now wear masks to look out for others, especially the elderly who are more susceptible to catching diseases like COVID-19. It’s difficult for me and many others who can’t visit their loved ones. It is a choice you make, and it is a hard one, but it’s for the greater good. One of my friends has a grandfather who had a birthday recently, and standing in front of the doorway six feet out saying “happy birthday” put tears in everyone's eyes, literally. This sad story made me realize the cost and sacrifices you have to make when actively putting the needs of others before your own.
Compassion for many people has grown due to the pandemic. Now that times are very uncertain, many people have and should be considering what they can do to help, and have been more aware. It’s difficult, but like the story I shared above, standing six feet apart is actually very considerate. Other activities include not hanging out with your friends (which proves to be pretty difficult, as I have seen it happen on social media with many teenagers), and not leaving the house unless it is absolutely necessary. On idealist.org, Alexis Perrotta talked about other activities, such as exploring ways to connect and volunteer virtually and to check on neighbors, especially the elderly, which is a small yet effective action. Perrotta makes another great point that I wanted to emphasize: suggesting to actually use up the supplies we have before panicking and going to get more. She stressed, “It’s very important that we use (cook it, eat it, share it, store it) what we have.” This action is the perfect example of selflessness and helping others with whatever needs they might have. Using supplies before getting more helps open up the stores for others who may need it, and gives them a chance to do whatever they need. In addition, many businesses have been amazing by helping out doctors, nurses, paramedics, and anyone on the front line who is risking their life for the sake of others who are sick. According to Mercury News, businesses went viral providing goods to health care professionals—for example, Starbucks gave away coffee and Krispy Kreme gave away doughnuts. Being aware of others’ needs, and doing whatever actions you can, broadens your perspective and helps you become a lot more empathetic.
Patience Is Becoming a Priority
Patience is what allows us to have motivation, and without it we truly couldn't make much of the situation that we are in.
The final value I wanted to talk about is patience. Now is not a time to be selfish. This is not a time to worry about insignificant things, like clothes, going-out plans, and shopping for fun. I’ve heard many kids complaining about quarantine and how bored they are on social media. Patience is difficult to have anytime, but now with all the rules and regulations it is very important. Deseret News published the story of an American pilot named James Stockdale who was captured during the Vietnam War and endured “repeated episodes of torture.” In an interview with Stockdale, he stated the importance of routine and how it got him through his tough times. His routine helped him gain patience that would help him to “prevail in the end.” Now, although his story is a lot more severe, I thought it was very inspiring and a story to compare with what is going on right now. Like I said, patience is never easy, and just like Stockdale, you truly face a battle within yourself and something that you have to work towards and change. It is way too easy for Generation Z to complain about how bored they are, how they haven’t seen any of their friends, and how they feel like they might explode with nothing to do every single day. Perspective, which many people can easily lose sight of, and patience seem to be hard to comprehend. But many of my friends, including me, have established our own mini routines every day, like exercising and going outside for a walk with our dogs. Patience is what allows us to have motivation, and without it we truly couldn't make much of the situation that we are in.
Top photo: Katerina recently helped celebrate brother Giorgio Gianoulis' graduation—while practicing social distancing.