Confronting Feelings of Guilt and Helplessness During the Coronavirus Pandemic


James Gregg

Shoppers find empty shelves and a desolate environment at HEB grocery store.

I wake up well after all my teachers’ office hours, way past noon, just me in my house without worry striking my conscience. I then get to choose what I want to go with my cereal: almond, 2%, silk? Not everyone is as lucky as I am. There are those unfortunate who are struggling to put food on the table… and I feel for them, but I can’t help but also feel a bit selfish.

Ever since COVID-19 (coronavirus), became a pandemic, a lot of people’s lives were flipped upside down; crashing of the stock market, doctors having to play God deciding who lives and who doesn’t, social distancing, shut down of local businesses and quarantining. According to the Wall Street Journal, It has caused 3.3 million people to file for unemployment. Without employment benefits, without an income, it leaves people with the worry about how they will get by. Those who live paycheck to paycheck, now wondering how they will tell their kids they can’t afford groceries. This is the new normal struck upon millions of not only Americans but everyone worldwide. Some might say this is only the beginning of something much larger. 

With everything going on, it feels rather surreal and unfathomable. It never once occurred to me that I’d be living through a historical event. Panicked shoppers, grocery store shelves empty, streets empty, seeming almost apocalyptic. Those who are prepared survive. Those who aren’t, are more vulnerable.

I am one of the lucky ones whose life hasn’t been affected as drastically; and because of that, I feel resentment towards myself. I know not what it is like to be in the shoes of those affected first-hand by the fallout of this virus, but of isolation in my home living comfortably. My parents go out of the house putting themselves at risk just to support our family. My parents are attending to their normal schedules as if a pandemic wasn’t occurring. In the morning my father leaves to go to work and comes back in the afternoon. My parents get groceries and supplies we need. However all this interaction with the outside world has lead them to make the decision to isolate themselves from us, in the event they have contracted the virus.

With the government imposing a national quarantine, I am stuck at home feeling helpless. I want to help those who are in need. Doing so,would put myself at risk of exposure. That is the source of my selfishness- the yearning to help the helpless bound by fears for my health. My family has been trying to support as many local businesses that we can. But at the end of the day, we are just one family. It takes a powerful army to win a war, and I am nothing but one soldier.