• GradHacker

    A Blog from GradHacker and MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online

Title

How to Be a Better Citizen

Reflections on citizenship in the time of COVID-19.

April 7, 2020
 
 

For 10 years of my youth, I was a member of 4-H, an organization that strives to help young people gain and develop the skills they need to be forces for good in their communities and develop valuable leadership skills to apply to their lives. The 4 H’s stand for head, heart, hands and health. The 4-H pledge goes like this:

I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
And my health to better living,
For my club, my community, my country and my world.

I haven’t thought about the 4-H pledge in many years. Months ago, I wasn’t thinking about COVID-19 when I submitted this post proposal topic to the editor of "GradHacker." The recent events of the global pandemic have caught nearly all of us off guard. However, these circumstances have proven to me that there is no better time to think about being a better citizen. While sheltering in place, I’ve had much time to ponder the many challenges that face our world in light of current events. During this time of reflection, the 4-H pledge emerged from my memory. As I thought about it, I realized the 4-H pledge provides some inspiration during this challenging time.

I pledge my head to clearer thinking. How are you spending your time sheltering in place? Of course, I’m sure you’re working on classwork and research, but are you filling the gaps with endless cable news, gossip and social media? Are you sharing stories that originate from less-than-credible sources, contributing to fear-mongering, or allowing your head to be filled with negativity and unfounded fears? If you are, it’s time to devote your head to clearer thinking in the midst of this crisis. Turn off the news and put down your device. Graduate school is already tough as it is without undue pressure and anxiety. Take a break, meditate, read something inspirational or go for a walk (while keeping your social distance).

My heart to greater loyalty. We often think about loyalty in terms of relationships, but it has other meanings. The dictionary provides several definitions, one of which is faithful adherence to a cause. We now all have a common cause and commitment to adhere to safe and healthy behaviors. This virus does not discriminate. Safe behaviors are, in many places, being enforced by our local or state governments. While the crisis is distracting, remember to stay loyal and committed to the things that are important in your normal life as well. Avoid behaviors with detrimental consequences such as racking up credit card debt from bored online purchasing and staying up late watching Netflix night after night. Normal life will return.

My hands to larger service. Keep your hands to yourself for now, but think about ways you can provide acts of service during this time. Have you called your grandmother or the elderly neighbor? Have you donated blood? If able, have you contributed funds to nonprofits working to help those who are afflicted by or fighting this pandemic? An act of service could be as simple as washing the dishes while your spouse is busy working from home. There are simple ways to be of service in your community and even within your own family. Maybe these acts of service will ultimately become a lasting habit for your regular life after COVID-19.

My health to better living. While sheltering in place, it’s a good time to take inventory of your health. Good health is a blessing that likely most of us take for granted. If you’re in good health, how can you pledge your health to better living? Take this time to do things such as finally start a budget, create a board in Pinterest for healthy recipes, organize your closet or try yoga in your living room. Better living is a concept that expands to the choices we make for our households as well. For example, I’ve been trying to buy Swiffer wet pads for a couple of weeks now. Both my local grocer and Amazon have been consistently sold out. I decided that this is as great a time as any to try a reusable mopping pad. Without the chemicals, it’s likely a healthier household cleaning option and, of course, more sustainable since it’s washable. This is an opportune time to try something different that could lead to better living in the future.

When we take these actions, even in the face of an adversary such as the novel coronavirus, we become better citizens. We do this by taking an active role in fighting a global threat by starting right where we are -- at home. We can be creative and resourceful to become better citizens. While it may feel as if we cannot make a real difference from within our homes, following guidelines and making the best of our circumstances can help us to shape better communities, a better country and, ultimately, a better world.

How are you finding inspiration in these challenging times? Let us know in the comments.

Elizabeth Dunn is a Ph.D. student in information science at the University of North Texas. She also works as the marketing and communications manager for the College of Graduate Studies at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Tex.

Image by ClaudiaWollesen from Pixabay

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