By Christy Litz
Kindness is a wonderful way to let another struggling soul know that there is still love in this world.
For all who have been keeping up with world news, and even those that haven’t, I am certain that you all are aware of the Wuhan coronavirus. Recently, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have declared the coronavirus a pandemic. There are rumors about how it originated, how it is spread, and if it can be contained. The Chinese government has not been forthcoming about the true severity of the virus, and governments around the world are taking measures that they see fit to slow the spread. However, I am not here to talk about that.
On January 31, 2020, some friends and I attended a Masquerade Ball hosted by Furman University. As we arrived at the venue, another group of Furman students also entered – they were donning surgical masks. When confronted with their outrageous and insensitive behavior, they mocked the plight of China as a country and the palpable fear of Chinese international students who have family and friends in a dire situation.
This is why I am writing – to confront the actions of fearful and ignorant people who would use a heartbreaking situation to spread rumors and prejudice.
I live with two Chinese international students and have been blessed with many more as friends. Two of my dear friends are from Wuhan, China, the identified place of origin for the virus and where their family and friends still reside. Just before the outbreak, my roommate’s mother came to visit us, and now, because of the flight cancellations, she cannot return home. Another roommate is unsure that her parents will be able to come to her graduation because they cannot enter the U.S. Other friends have family that work in the hospitals, surrounded by the virus. My apartment is covered by hundreds of masks that my roommates want to send to their families and friends because stores have run out in China. And tragically, another friend’s family is already in the wake of devastating loss from the virus.
For the students I have spoken with, most say, “I’m scared for my family,” or “I’m very worried,” and, “I want to send them some masks.” Neither you nor I can pretend to understand the position in which Chinese people in America find themselves today. Most of us cannot understand the stares that Chinese people, and other Asians ethnicities, receive when they go to buy a mask or simply sneeze. But, take a moment. Stop your multitasking and imagine:
What if it was your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or friends?
What would you do if they were in danger of catching an unknown disease that has already spread to thousands?
What would you do from halfway around the world where people are afraid to come near you?
As a pandemic, it is not solely a Chinese problem – it impacts everyone in how we serve and treat one another. Though the chances of coming into contact with the Wuhan coronavirus in the U.S. are slim to nil, I have witnessed actions and received stares as a proverbial leper. This must stop. And it should start with you.
Is it so difficult to imagine that right now, Chinese students, and internationals, just want to know that someone cares?
I urge you to reach out to your Chinese neighbors and friends. Don’t shy away from them like you would a leper. Be kind. Ask them if they are alright. Ask them what they need. It may be as simple as a hug or a prayer. It might be nice to go for tea to talk and ease the mind. However, and whatever you do, I can promise that the most impactful part will be that you listened and you cared.
I challenge you not to let your fear control your actions. Instead, allow love and empathy to overwhelm you, and in that place of abundance, let your words and actions show the Chinese community that you care.
Christy Litz is a senior undergraduate pursuing a B.S. in Biology at Furman University in Greenville, SC. After graduation, she seeks to hone her passion for advocacy in law school. With a background in pre-medical studies and a heart for service, she strives to improve the quality of the health, safety, and well-being of others, both domestically and abroad. In her free time, she enjoys photography, writing, and playing with her cat.