A panicked people crave leadership, whether the source of anxiety is familial, or societal. When lives are upended, routines jolted and dreams temporarily diverted, we search for a beacon of steadying strength to guide us through the unknown. As we wrap our minds around the daily, life-changing barrage of information we must now absorb in this new corona culture, our emotionally most vulnerable are actually, currently, the medically least at risk.
Leadership, during a societal crisis as threatening as COVID-19 starts at the grassroots level, in the home. As we are bombarded with ever-evolving restrictions to life, our children are looking to us for reactionary appropriateness. The potential economic, educational, medical and mental health impact is astounding. Our children will forever remember our response to it.
The expressions on our faces as we watch the news will be frozen in their memory. Are we lashing out in anger or are we making plans to organize our household? We serve as governors of our household as we unpack groceries, and our children see how many rolls of toilet paper, gallons of milk, bacterial wipes we stock. Did we consider leaving some for our neighbors? As managers of the days, our children will recall the feel of the new structure we impose in the absence of school, organized sports and the like. Did we wake them from their morning slumber in an effort to keep us engaged in the learning process, focused on long division, Shakespeare and biology?
As keepers of the homespun hearts of our family, our children will feel the magnanimity we project. Our children will understand that the world is greater than them. They, too, are responsible for the well-being of the elderly and medically fragile. Empowerment will fortify them and nurture skills they will need as they navigate through their own futures.
Our children are watching our every move, reading our every cue and maybe (if they’re teenagers) arguing our every directive. Years from now, they will recall this time and our steady leadership in their lives, appreciate the strength of our resistance to panic frenzy and grow their souls with understanding the selflessness we practice in the quicksand of the unknown.
The purest, most impactful leadership begins so modestly. It begins in the home, where we all are right now, surrounded by our wide-eyed constituents, looking to us to take the lead. And so, for them, with steady calm, we must.