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Banwari Mittal: As region reopens, I love the new attitude; why we should see people being nicer

Our city is reopening and it is exhilarating to see people again — on restaurant patios and on our sidewalks on Greenup, Mainstrasse Village, and elsewhere in Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati.

It is nice to see people reconnecting with our city life but even more joyful is to see them reconnecting with other people in new ways — more courteous, friendlier, and eager to help strangers.

Forced to live under a constant threat of catching the virus has heightened our awareness of how fragile and fleeting our lives can be. Such recognition of our vulnerability makes us rethink our very lives. Or it should. As we come out on the other side of COVID-19, will we be the same old, self-absorbed persons? or, instead, will we be better versions of our earlier selves? I decided to find out from our fellow Cincinnatians.

Mainstrasse Village

Students in my consumer psychology class at NKU surveyed some 250 residents of Greater Cincinnati toward the end of the spring semester; it is a small sample, but it included all age, education, and income groups and therefore provides a good microcosm of people in our city.
“Due to coronavirus, my perspective on life has changed forever,” to this statement, two out of five (39%) of my respondents “agreed” or “strongly agreed.” And in answers people wrote in their own words, four major themes emerged:

Be more present for family and friends.

“I will treasure time with family and friends,” said Jamie, a 40-year old, medical assistant. “My family relations will become stronger,” said Randy, a 37-year old construction manager. One respondent even said she “would try to finish work quicker to be able to spend time with family more” (Soraya, 50-year old business manager). (All names are disguised.)

Live more in the moment.

“I will live every day to the fullest,” said Noelle, 24-year old botanist. For some it was time to rebalance their priorities in life, as Edward, 54, a businessman, put it, “This event has reminded me that I need to slow down in life.”

Be more appreciative and grateful.

“I will not take freedom to go where I want for granted” (Vince, 24, pharmacist). “I will value the relationships I have with people and strive to be the best version of myself” (Dayleen, 30, restaurant manager). Linda, a 55-year old horse rancher put it thus, “I won’t let this pandemic get me down, I have much to be grateful for.”
Be kinder & nicer.

“I will be nicer to others and make sure everyone in my life was taken care of,” said Chip, a 40-year old courier driver. Danielle, a 37-year old bartender said, simply, “hug more.” Anjelica, a 33-year old sales executive put it thus, “I will be more of a person that people in my community can rely on in these kinds of times.”
Post-COVID is our time to be nice

These voices in the survey offer us a valuable opportunity to rethink our own lives and our own behavior toward our fellow citizens, going forward. Those of us who never felt this way (about half in my survey), had good reasons, of course: Some of us were able to carry on our daily lives “as usual,” unaffected by the lockdown; at the other end, some of us were preoccupied with just trying to survive during the pandemic; and some of us saw it as a mere passing phase. If we were in this camp, post-COVID, will we be the same old selves? That will be a missed opportunity.   
If the lockdown did not wake us out of our slumber, it is not too late to open our eyes to three realities: One, we are not out of the woods yet. Two, this virus treats each of us as equals — none of us is more privileged than others. And three, the safety of each of us depends on the actions of all others in our vicinity. No other calamity makes our health, indeed survival, so interdependent on one another. These truths should make us be appreciative of what the reopened world offers us and be grateful to those who make it possible.

In the reopening world, don’t be surprised to see people—strangers—being more courteous and helpful. My survey shows there are quite a few of them, resolved to live as better persons — kinder, nicer to others. Let us join them; and let us ourselves try to become that person as well — grateful for what life offers us and, in equal measure, respecting the life of others.

Click image to order book.

Crises have a way of molding our character. Surviving the pandemic means It is an opportunity for us to become better versions of ourselves.  Personally, my own journey from self-absorbed to more caring of others’ wellbeing has just begun!

Banwari Mittal, Ph.D. is a professor of marketing and consumer psychology at NKU. His book, 50 Faces of Happy—Work, Money, Life, Purpose, was just published. 

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