Everyone seems very judgmental these days. We're all very conflicted about how to behave during this pandemic and the constant barrage of information and misinformation doesn’t make it any easier. But it seems so unfortunate that during a situation where unity seems so crucial and beneficial, we’ve retreated to our corners and decided that our position, wherever it lies on the spectrum, is the only correct one.

I feel fortunate that I can work from home and because I’m in the over-60 group I feel compelled to take this lockdown very seriously. I don’t go to any stores (I have children and Instacart for that) and my most (and only) exciting trip in the last two months has been to the dermatologist!

But I can understand those who feel differently – who are having a hard time feeding their family or maintaining their sense of self-respect, or even their sanity. I don’t know where the line should be drawn (obviously there’s a question of risking the lives of others) but I think we should all begin with a little more compassion.

I’ve had people make fun of my position. I've been attacked, told in not so many words that I was an uninformed idiot and if I knew better, I would be out and about. I’ve seen people attack others for not opening their homes to them. I see neighborhoods torn apart over whose children are playing outside. And I see those neighborhood busybodies keeping track of who has taken back their cleaning ladies – or not.

And it all makes me so sad. We should be coming together during this time, not splitting apart. Our disagreements can be managed with respect – and understanding. Yes, some behaviors increase the risk for others – but I can stay isolated to avoid that. And those who engage in possibly riskier behaviors may have to reckon with the consequences not only of the potential for getting the disease but also that certain “older” members of their family (i.e. their parents) may distance themselves from them for the duration of this pandemic.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I miss all my east coast kids (and grandkids!) and they are constantly begging me to come visit, especially as the states seem to be easing up the restrictions. But I hope they also appreciate my position. The last thing I want to do right now is spend 6 hours on a crowded airplane, mask or not. And they get it because they’re worried about my husband and me.

And that’s how we need to see each other. As if they really matter to us and it’s not just a matter of lip service. It’s not that we all need to agree but perhaps since I have a backyard to escape to, I can be empathic to those who violate some rules to go to the beach or park and give their children or just themselves some fresh air and space to run around. Perhaps since I still have a job, I can be empathic to those who need to go out to earn some income. Perhaps, since I am surrounded by family (albeit a relatively small portion of it), I can be empathic to those who are alone and desperate (I mean that literally) for some social interaction. Perhaps since I have been able to allocate the household cleaning duties to my husband (he’s a master at bathrooms these days) and older currently in-residence children, I can be empathic to those with younger children running around, schooling on zoom and working, who have rehired their cleaning ladies…

As with everything in life, we don’t know anyone else’s challenges. To my acquaintance who suggested that I was young (enough) and healthy (enough) to be out and about, I wanted to say that you really don’t know what my challenges are or could be. We don’t know everyone’s underlying health conditions and if there are perhaps members of their family they are trying to protect. Why should we assume we do? Why should we presume to know better for others?

It's unfortunate that the opportunity to truly come together to fight an external enemy isn't uniting us sufficiently. But as individuals, we can each make our own small differences. And it begins with not judging, with letting go of that self-righteousness, with seeing others as just as thoughtful and well-meaning as we and with trying, really trying to understand.