By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Can you make money during a pandemic? Are you bored staying at home? Why making someone smile could actually help you… Read on.
Fighting bad moods
My friend Jane Nishita reminded me what Nobel prize winner and peace activist Dalai Lama said, “The three factors that seem to have the greatest influence on increasing our happiness are our ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous.”
The coronavirus has made many depressed, scared, and anxious. Rather than longing for what we miss and feeling alone at home, we need to remind ourselves and others especially when we are feeling lousy—the Tibetan spiritual leader’s advice on “increasing happiness.”
“Make someone smile” is also what many ministers and rabbis have suggested. Reach out and make people feel good about themselves and their life through your compassion and deeds.
This is a good time to search or fulfill your passions. Besides working full-time, my daughter-in-law Tracy has devoted her time to baking during the lockdown. Knowing I love hats, she made me a beautiful cake with an edible “hat” for Mother’s Day. She has also created fancy cakes for kids’ birthdays. What beats putting a smile on a child?
Make good use of every situation
The coronavirus pandemic actually creates opportunities for some businesses. A German company, Melitta, that manufactures coffee filters, now is making masks as well, because “the filter fits exactly over the mouth, nose, and chin,” according to a New York Times story. Since it already has the know-how and equipment, Melitta beats its competition with speed.
A few days before Mother’s Day, I received a surprise—flowers and a card from the University of Washington’s Multicultural Alumni Partnership (MAP) board. It made my day. Board member Sumona Gupta thought of sending flowers to 24 MAP supporters and donors. Some donors were so moved by the gesture that they instantly committed again to donating to the MAP scholarship this year.
The board also ordered the flowers from Hmong farmers who are normally busy selling their flowers at Pike Place Market, and now hurting like most businesses. Wow, doing good by killing two birds with one stone!
Unexpectedly, the coronavirus pandemic can yield some benefits.
“The virus has made me more tech competent,” said Naomi Minegishi, a retiree. “I am engaged with civic organizations through Zoom meetings.”
Zoom has allowed me to accomplish much more at home. This week, my editor called while I was in a Zoom group meeting. I went to another room and talked to her briefly. Afterwards, I washed my laundry, did the dishes, and lifted weights, while listening to the discussion and turning off Zoom’s camera and microphone. I can’t believe I got so much done without leaving home. Not everything discussed at meetings is important. In a face-to-face meeting, you have no choice, but to sit still and listen to all the nonsense.
“At home, there’s a lot I can do,” said Kelly Liao, managing editor of Seattle Chinese Post. “I can support my family more and understand them more. I can send greetings and blessings to relatives through the internet.”
During the pandemic, many publications’ print and online community calendars, including the Northwest Asian Weekly’s, vanished due to the stay-at-home order. What are we going to do to fill the space?
COVID-19 has supplied us with endless stories and ideas. Since March, every single one of my blogs is related, directly or indirectly, to the pandemic.
A couple of community organizations have done successful virtual fundraising events, including Neighborhood House and Denise Louie Childhood Education Center. The organizations might not have raised as much money as they wanted, but a virtual event does have its merits— lower cost and less labor-intensive.
Save, save, save
Most Americans don’t have savings. A Federal Reserve report said half of Americans don’t have an emergency fund of $400, including households earning $100,000. That’s terrible and shocking! When the coronavirus hit, many lost their jobs, and they are simply stuck without any financial cushion.
“Everybody needs to save some money,” said Pei Lei, local news editor of Seattle Chinese Post. “A lot of American families are getting into an unprecedented financial crisis simply because they never save any money. Most people overdraft their credit cards and never get a chance to learn this lesson until this pandemic. Most importantly, these people eagerly want our economy to be reopened, despite the danger we are facing.”
My husband and I lived frugally when we first got married. We frequently ate inexpensive meals, such as rice and a whole chicken—enough to feed the both of us. A side dish such as vegetables was considered a luxury.
Our occasional splurge was dining in a nearby restaurant for its $1 Sunday special breakfast, with an egg, sausage, toast, and coffee. We waited for four years until we were financially sound to start a family. And we were happy even then without many material things. My credit card was, and still is, for emergencies only. The payoff was—after two years of saving, my teaching salary was enough to buy our first house. When the pandemic is over, you still have to plan for future emergencies, including a rainy day fund, updating your will, and power of attorney. It’s for self-preservation. And if you get stuck, who will be your saviors? Prepare them ahead of time in case you might need their help in times of crisis.
Goals or no goals?
During the pandemic, you can design the kind of life you want, set goals or no goals. For those who have suffered mentally with social distancing, perhaps you need to have goals every day.
If your hobby is none other than reading or watching television, you need to develop more interests and meaningful ways to spend time by yourself. Never have I appreciated YouTube so much. If I am curious to learn about drawing cartoons, boxing and exercising, or cooking French food, I turn to YouTube, which instantly showcases many teachers in diverse fields. No, I don’t want to be a cartoonist. But understanding the process cartoonists go through to transform their ideas into artwork is appealing to me. This is the best time to learn something new.
Even without goals, you can achieve a relaxed attitude by improvising and being spontaneous in your schedule.
“I started out with a list of things I wanted to accomplish, learning Russian on Duolingo,” said Minegishi. “As the days wore on, my resolve disintegrated and I have ended up with a routine that I am truly happy with and grateful for. I learned to keep busy, but busy with no real commitments, obligations, and goals.”
During this presidential election year, many media had big plans, including live programs to feature forums, town halls, and dialogues with presidential candidates in major U.S. cities to engage viewers and readers. Unfortunately, COVID-19 ended all that.
But the virus has also inspired journalists, artists, museums, and other professionals and entities to be creative in attracting audiences. The Washington State Historical Society has added a new project on the COVID-19 impact on Washingtonians, and is collecting material. Prestigious local, national, and international museums have opened up their valuable collections to virtual viewers for free. Harvard and Yale Universities are offering free online courses. New York Broadway stars and many orchestras, including the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, are performing online. The San Diego Zoo has organized a fundraising program through a naming contest for one of its newborn animals.
NBC launched a kids edition of its Nightly News. The New York Times recently published two full pages worth of mini word puzzles for sheltering-in readers. I’ve saved that copy to take with me for my next trip when I need something to do.
For survival purposes, all of us can create something for the wellbeing of individuals and the community.
The office is gone
It took a pandemic for companies to realize that they don’t really need an office to produce good work. An office produces supervision, structure, and routine for workers. However, it also institutes a rigid workplace, especially for parents who have young children, and those who have to commute to work. One of my staff members, who has kids, is now less stressed, and enjoying working at home. Amazingly, she has met early deadlines set by her co-workers.
Why your part is essential
People are protesting social distancing for different reasons, including liberty, jobs, and mobility. I sympathize with those who need to work, and can’t. I wish that those protesting for civil liberties understand that more human contact means the continued spread of COVID-19.
Social isolation can cause mental distress. Unfortunately, the unpredictability of the virus doesn’t give you many choices to stop the spread, except social distancing. The virus has mutated to be stronger and more vicious compared to the original strain in China. Earlier, health experts said the young would be spared. But it didn’t. Some have died anyway, and now children are being infected with a strange skin disease and heart failure. Also, they predicted that the summer heat would drive the virus away, except now we still see the number of deaths and infections rising. Please don’t blame them because there is still a lot about COVID-19 we don’t know.
“We don’t live in a perfect world,” said Liao. “So there are unexpected events. We have to accept changes. You can complain all you want. But it doesn’t do you any good, and it’s not solving problems at all.”
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.