Are you contagious?

Contagion is the second most popular movie on Netflix this year as people turn to this 2011 thriller for some combination of information and escapism. I watched this movie when it first came out and remember it as absolutely terrifying. But not for the reason you might think.

Yes, the physical effects of the virus that spreads rapidly across the globe are devastating and graphic (it is portrayed as exponentially more lethal and dangerous than the coronavirus.)

But it is the spreading of fear and panic that is most horrific. People turn on neighbors, violently compete for precious resources and become primal in their quest for survival.

The circumstances in Contagion are more extreme than what we currently face.  Yet you can begin to see the fraying of the social fabric that binds us together.  Even as it is so desperately needed to protect us during especially trying times.

We have seen seemingly innocuous hoarding of hand sanitizer (which is now causing a sharp increase of prices online).  I have read coarse online conversations that criticize closings and cancellations.  I have even heard of numerous reports across the globe of Chinese people being taunted, even beaten, for reasons related to the virus.

As public officials promote “social distancing” in an effort to prevent community spread, we need to better appreciate what is and is not meant by the term. It is specifically asking us to be smart about our physical distance and contact with others.  We can do this without emotionally distancing ourselves from the needs and feelings of others.

Fear makes us do strange and terrible things, often bringing out the worst of us when it is the best of us that is required.

So yes, we should be prudent and prepared to keep our physical distance, when appropriate, so the actual virus does not spread. But we should also be kind and supportive, closing our emotional distance, so that our goodness does.

For your information on what you can do to prevent the spreading of the virus, see this valuable CDC resource.

For more inspiration on how to cause the spreading of goodness in your community, skip Contagion and check out the film Kindness is Contagious instead.

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