Since January, we have been focused on the coronavirus as people around the world cope with the developing global health crisis. Last week, Tom Hanks announced that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, had both tested positive for the coronavirus. This surprising news had an unexpected effect on the way many were viewing the virus.
With an acting career that spans more than 30 years, Tom Hanks is recognized as an Oscar-winning actor and all-around good person. He has moved us with iconic performances in films such as “Saving Private Ryan,” “Big” and “Forrest Gump.” As moviegoers, we feel like we know him.
Although it was disconcerting to learn they were ill, their positive approach to dealing with the coronavirus gave us the opportunity to better understand the illness and subsequent recovery. Using social media, they posted photos and shared health updates as they recuperated in Australia. This week, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson were discharged from the hospital. On March 17, he posted a photo of his once-favorite manual typewriter, the Corona, and tweeted: “We are all in this together.”
As the sum of his characters, Tom Hanks reminds us we all make a choice to be honorable and do the right thing for ourselves and others. Indeed, there are many inspiring stories of overcoming illness we keep in our personal memory — those of public figures, professional athletes, celebrities and members of our family who have inspired us to carry on in the face of adversity.
Many in the scientific community have indicated we are at a tipping point, and our actions now could reduce the length and severity of the coronavirus across the United States by practicing social distancing (defined as limiting our proximity to others by maintaining a distance of six feet, or staying home). It is strange to consider that we could change the course of the virus just by staying inside.1
As we move through the spring, you may begin to feel like Tom Hanks in the movie “Cast Away.” Before you search the garage to find a volleyball, we want to remind you that you are not alone. Thanks to modern technology, there are numerous ways to virtually connect while we keep our distance.
Just as the stock market often rallies before investors realize that a full recovery is even possible, we cannot know immediately if our efforts to limit the coronavirus turn out to be successful. We all know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we just do not know with certainty how long it will be before we reach it.
While most of us settle into new routines with students learning remotely and employees working from home, many of our neighbors are still heading to work each day to make sure essential services keep running. We can tell these individuals how much we appreciate their commitment by thanking them from an appropriate social distance and by staying home.
This extraordinary time presents us with new opportunities. While many choose to catch up on their reading, a few will write the next Great American Novel. As some cook a new recipe, others will order delivery. We have more time to spend with those we care about most (whether they are down the hall or a call away) and can take comfort in the knowledge that our loved ones are doing everything to remain safe.
For all the questions that remain regarding the coronavirus, one thing is certain: It is possible for each of us to make a difference to help our families, our communities, our economy and our world. We are all in this together.
1 Eliza Barclay and Dylan Scott, “How Canceled Events and Self-Quarantines Save Lives, in One Chart.” Vox, March 10, 2020.
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