Love in the time of coronavirus


If there’s ever been a time to be reminded of our shared humanity, it is during this pandemic. COVID-19 is no respecter of persons; it discriminates against no one. One’s social status makes no difference, and for once, LGBTQ+ communities suddenly are equal to all others. But because of our shared humanity, I happen to believe that the only answer to the threat of the coronavirus is love. More on that later. 

Trying to write a column during a pandemic is not easy. I’ve been having a hard time concentrating on anything other than the pandemic, and I know this goes for many Central Voice readers as well.

There’s so much going on in the world, and the media saturation is incredible. We all want to know the latest developments because we are scared—scared to death. Am I safe? My family and friends? My colleagues at work?

My good friend and former editor of The Patriot News and then Harrisburg Magazine Ron Minard once said, “I was so scared I could have shit through a screen and not hit a wire.” I think the coronavirus is about that scary, don’t you?

How is one to cope with the immense scale of suffering and disruption? We know how the virus has affected not just the public health of all nations, but their economies as well. You may not get COVID-19, but perhaps you’ve lost your job or watched your retirement savings vanish.

And as bad as our situation in the U.S. may be, there are so many more people around the globe living and dying in even worse circumstances. Would you want to be living in Iran right now? Or Sub-Saharan Africa? How about a refugee camp?

One risks the daily experience of compassion fatigue. 

Then there is the matter of how our elected leaders are meeting the challenge. What a mess. Our federal government is not the only one this applies to, but it’s the only one we have right now. So let’s have at it, beginning with the president. 

Or perhaps not. I’m now at a loss for words, believe it or not. But I’ll try.

A good friend and I often have the same response to the latest example of President Trump’s daily displays of arrogance, incompetence and just plain bullshit. You can’t make this shit up, one of us says, also referring to the millions of our fellow citizens who think of Trump as a great leader and who buy everything he’s selling.

In fact, it really fits the entirety of his presidency, not to mention the many other national political leaders who have spent serious time trying to defend the president or simply looking the other way.

Thank goodness for leaders like Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, who has been such a steady and supportive presence for us all. Does anyone object that we have a transgender woman in a top leadership position?

At this point you may be wondering about the title of this column, and why I believe love is what will get us through the pandemic, and Trump’s presidency as well.

Longtime readers of Ally in the Academy may remember that the best definition of love I know comes from the psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck, who wrote the bestselling book The Road Less Traveled. He writes, “Love is the willing extension of the self to promote one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” (You can substitute “personal” for “spiritual.”)

In other words, love is a verb: It is an action, not a feeling. And we have seen love in action on so many fronts during this time of coronavirus. Beyond the first responders, nurses, doctors and all the hospital aides, there are so many others who are practicing daily acts of love. Our neighborhoods are busy with people asking one another if there’s anything they can do for them.

Many faith communities remain connected—albeit via the internet and social media—and aware of people’s needs. All the Central PA LGBTQ organizations are ready for anyone who needs help. 

We will get through this, of course, but it’s going to continue to be difficult. Peck always noted that love means love of self as well as of others. Loving oneself is important; we must take care of ourselves first in order to help others. 

I think I need to practice some self-love and do a better job of filtering out some of the media noise that has come with COVID-19. Perhaps my concentration issues will dissipate then. I need to keep the faith.


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