Over the weekend, as more stories about the COVID-19 virus were published, I found myself feeling more and more anxious.

On Saturday morning we went on a little shopping trip to a “big” grocery shop, kind of like we do ahead of a snowstorm. To our surprise, many others had the same idea. It was such an eerie feeling to pass people in the store. I wondered if they thought I had the virus because I wondered if they had the virus.

People weren’t talking, they were focused on getting their carts filled and getting out. It didn’t seem to be the time for joking around, even at the checkout we were hustling. One good thing came out of it, my wife was more amenable to junk food making its way into the cart like Lucky Charms, ribs and craft beer. Even got an extra jar of peanuts in the cart without “the look” from my wife.

Lotion was on the shopping list because we’ve been washing our hands so much they are cracking. I googled “how do I make bread” when I noticed the thin supply of bread. That’s a project for me and the grandkids one night this week.

Toilet paper? We got that along with paper towels but not in hoarding fashion. One big package each. Using the paper products wisely required another talk with the grandkids.

Did things really change this much over the last week, or is it me? How are you doing? I told my wife that when this is all done, we need to have a huge community hug fest to get it all out of our system. I’m not saying we should be going back to licking handrails but, my word, a warm smile and a pat on the back is sorely needed by one and all.

We need to remind ourselves that we aren’t in control of this, and for more than 99% of us, it will be like another bout of the flu. Let’s put a bubble of space around those more vulnerable and make sure they are as safe as they can be.

Yesterday morning in the office someone said, “We just heard there is a confirmed case in Hayward.” I said, OK, OK ... it’s not a zombie apocalypse. For most it’s like a flu. Let’s keep it in perspective.

Let’s get to the end of this in a few months knowing that we worked hard not to add to the hysteria. If we need to show a little more compassion at home, at work or six feet away from a stranger, let’s do that. Warm smiles look great at six feet; warm greetings sound nice too.

This is something we’ll get through and then there will be something else to worry about. If there are lessons here, it’s in our personal response and reactions to this pandemic, not the pandemic itself. Be kind, wash your hands and share a kind word or a smile.

Rickman is publisher of the Leader-Telegram.