A Different Kind of Survival

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I think it’s safe to say that no one in the world expected what’s happening now to ever happen. Humanity has faced diseases and wars before, but never a war on a disease at this scale.

To an extent, we’ve “been through” various survival or apocalyptic scenarios thanks to movies, TV, and fiction: nuclear fallout, drought and famine, invasion (from countries and extraterrestrials), totalitarian oppression, asteroid impact, cataclysmic earthquakes and tsunamis—the list goes on.

But I don’t recall ever seeing or reading anything quite like this.

Thanks to COVID-19, we now have terms like “social distancing” and “self-quarantine”. We’re sequestered to our homes and, if we’re fortunate, we can work from home. Some of us can’t leave our countries, and soon we may not even be able to leave our states or our cities.

The stock market has almost “reset” to 2017 levels and continues to fluctuate wildly while corporations lay off or furlough employees. Trillions of dollars are being spent worldwide to keep the economy from grinding to a halt.

And people are fighting over toilet paper at Wal-Mart.

What a way to begin the Roaring 20s!

The Prepper’s Dream?

Back in high school I started getting interested in the idea of prepping. For those unfamiliar with the term, this is not the same as “preppy”—wearing Vineyard Vines shirts and Sperrys for a weekend on the yacht. Prepping is, more or less, preparing oneself and one’s family for a disaster. To be a prepper is to be prepared.

Most preppers follow some basic tenets:

  • Have food and water stockpiled for at least two weeks for each person
  • Have redundant means of generating energy in case of power loss (no electricity, no gas)
  • Have a vehicle gassed up and ready to get the heck out of Dodge if the stuff hits the fan
  • Have a rally point to escape to and survive off the grid if need be
  • Have multiple means of self-defense, including firearms and knives
  • Have the knowledge and skills necessary to use all equipment and overcome all scenarios

When COVID-19 (a.k.a. coronavirus) first popped up on America’s radar as a real threat, I started seeing articles about preppers having their moment in the sun, their five minutes of fame. Most weren’t gloating, saying “I told you so!” at all the people who thought they were crazy to stockpile for a Red Dawn or Jericho situation. Instead, most preppers were saying, “I told you so, now here’s what you unprepared folks need to do to survive this.”

As the weeks have progressed we still don’t seem to have a great idea of what COVID-19’s impact has been or will be. A glance at the statistics by country show widely disparate rates in infection and mortality. Talking heads in the media only help to fan the flames of fear.

In the age of disinformation and fake news, it’s hard to get at the truth.

That said, we do know that COVID-19 has dramatically changed daily life around the world and that things may not go back to “normal” for quite a while. While this isn’t (yet) the post-apocalyptic survival scenario that makes for a great movie, and not the “run to the hills” kind of scenario that most preppers prep for, it is something that we all need to be preparing to endure.

And to that end, I offer you my thoughts on how to ride out this pandemic.

Prepare

The first thing you must do is prepare yourself. This goes for things such as food and water as well as mental fortitude. We’ll start by tackling the stuff you can buy (supplies), then address the stuff you must cultivate (a mindset).

First, water: Have one gallon per person per day. I’d recommend stocking up on at least two weeks’ worth of drinking water, then some additional water for things like washing and cleaning.

If you’ve ever seen any of those Discovery Channel shows like Naked and Afraid, you’ll know that water is more important than food. You can survive for about twenty-one days without food but only three without water. So, make water a priority.

You can buy bottled or boxed water from stores or fill up containers yourself. Make sure to keep plastic water bottles out of the sun so that the plastic doesn’t heat up and leach chemicals into the water. If you fill up your own containers, follow the same precautions.

Second, food: Have at least 800 calories per person per day—though preferably more since the average person needs 2,000 calories per day to function.

Good food items to stock up on include rice, bread, beans, canned fruits and vegetables, snack crackers, peanut butter, energy bars, beef jerky, sausage, and food mixes. I doubt we will be without basic utilities such as water, gas, and electricity during this period of social distancing, so you can buy and prepare refrigerated or frozen foods as well. You may also want to buy some dehydrated foods or meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) in the event things turn further south.

Eat balanced meals and make sure you’re getting enough calories from carbs, healthy fats, and protein. Make sure to buy vitamins (and take them daily regardless of whether you’re in lockdown). I also suggest taking probiotics to strengthen your immune system. If you start feeling unwell, drink elderberry syrup—that stuff is potent and will knock whatever your body is fighting off.

Here are a few other things you would do well to stock up on for at least two weeks of urban survival:

  • Sanitary products and toiletries (do not hog any of these!)
    • Toilet paper
    • Sanitary/antibacterial wipes
    • Hand sanitizer or hand gel
    • Hand soap and body soap
    • Feminine hygiene products
  • First aid kit and/or the following first aid items (by no means an exhaustive list)
    • Bandages
    • Disinfectant (rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide)
    • Tweezers
    • Disposable gloves
    • Antibiotic ointment
    • Gauze
    • Scissors
  • Over-the-counter medicines such as pain relievers and allergy meds
  • Prescription drugs, if your doctor allows a refill

Also, if possible, set aside $1,000 (or more) as an emergency fund. You may be out of work, but that money will keep food on your table and your lights on. If you’re still employed, you may not be tomorrow. You should have at least $1,000 (or your local equivalent) set aside for a rainy day anyway. Welcome to a rainy month, potentially a rainy season.

Now—for the mindset.

You must not panic. You must not fear. If you do, and if the stuff really does hit the fan, chances are you will not survive. And if you survive, the survival period will not be very pleasant.

I don’t think the illness is going to get that bad. I really don’t. We’re pretty much just being asked to sit inside our homes and not get within six feet of each other outside our homes. The worst it could get might be a version of house arrest wherein law enforcement fines or arrests you if you’re outside without a valid reason. (The real impact of COVID-19 is economical, with people out of work and businesses shutting down.)

Mindset is everything. Tell yourself every day, all the time, “I am a survivor. I am doing everything I can to survive. I am going to live through this.”

Should you get sick—and I am not a doctor—stay home, for the love of all that is good. Stay in bed, rest up, and keep things sanitized.

And should you get sick, tell yourself that you will get well. Say, “I am a survivor. I am going to get well.” It certainly won’t help if you think, “Oh no, I’ve got the coronavirus, and now I’m going to die.”

(I don’t mean to trivialize death or diminish what is evidently a clear and present danger to human health worldwide, but think about it in terms of statistics. If you live in the United States like I do, a country of 327 million people, where “they” say 200,000 people might die of COVID-19, you have a 0.0612% chance of dying from this virus. That’s just over six hundredths of a percent.)

As part of the survivor mindset, do smart things to prevent illness and spreading the disease. Wash your hands. (I can’t believe that is a new concept to some people—it is the 21st century, folks!) Don’t touch your face. And if you do touch your face, wash your hands. Preferably before you touch your face, but certainly after.

Cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze, respectively. I’ve heard different opinions about whether to cough and sneeze into your hands or arm—I’m an arm guy myself—but either way, don’t share your germs with others. In this case, sharing is not caring.

Do

So, what are you to do while you’re cooped up indoors for an indefinite period?

I have a few practical tips for making it through this, and then a few entertaining ones. First, the practical:

  • Keep your devices charged in case power goes out or is spotty
  • Keep your gas tank full (or at least above half a tank) in case you need to make an unexpected trip (and in case there happens to be a gas ration, however unlikely that is)
  • Go sparingly with “rationed” products like toilet paper and antiseptic wipes
  • Stay informed of local and national news that affects you
    • Use apps like Nextdoor to connect with your neighbors and stay abreast of things going on in your neighborhood
    • Subscribe for news alerts with local TV or radio stations (rather than keep the TV on and hear all the bad news that’s constantly spewing)
  • Check in with elderly folks and those who may be homebound (my neighbors have been really good about doing this)

Otherwise, live life as normally as you can. Wake up and go to bed like you always do so that you keep your body in its natural circadian rhythm. If you work from home, dress for work to get yourself in the mental state of working. As long as we’re not in true survival mode, keep on eating, drinking, and living as you would any other day.

Now, for ways to pass the time, here are my ideas, in no particular order:

  • Read books (if your library is closed, you may be able to check out e-books or audiobooks to read on an e-reader, tablet, or phone)
  • Play games with friends and family (board games are great, but you could also play online—my friends and I played Texas Hold ‘Em online while talking via Facebook Messenger and had a great time)
  • Listen deeply to music (if you have vinyl, spin records!)
  • Call, text, or IM friends
  • Play an instrument (or start learning to play)
  • Do some spring cleaning
  • Support businesses by shopping online (if you are financially able, and aren’t buying something just to buy it)
  • Support local restaurants by ordering take-out or buying gift cards for future purchases (once things go back to normal)
  • Draw or sketch
  • Write a book, short story, or poetry
  • Take walks and explore your neighborhood on foot (if you’re allowed to do so)
  • Exercise at home (how many pushups can you do without stopping?)
  • Teach or tutor, if you have kids (or if you are a subject-matter expert and can help kids learn—you could tutor through FaceTime, for example)
  • Write out a list of people and things you’re thankful for
  • Pray and meditate

I’d strongly suggest finding some things to do that don’t involve the Internet. Why? With so many people home, streaming movies or gaming online, the Internet is starting to feel the strain. In the event that it goes down, whether just for you or on a larger scale, you should have things to do to stay busy off the line.

Don’t

There are two things you absolutely should not do, and I think these go without saying:

  1. Panic
  2. Hoard

Don’t break the law. Follow the rules and regulations in your jurisdiction, even if it’s tough. It’s better to stay indoors than to risk venturing outside and receive a fine for it (much less get sick).

And don’t give up. You will get through this.

Faith and Trust

For the past couple weeks, I’ve started every morning by reading Psalm 91 aloud and personalizing it as a prayer. Here is the relevant passage for our time:

Surely You (God) will deliver me from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly plague.

You will cover me with Your feathers; under Your wings I will find refuge; Your faithfulness is a shield and rampart.

I will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the calamity that destroys at noon.

Though a thousand may fall at my side, and ten thousand at my right hand, no harm will come near me.

I will only see it with my eyes and witness the punishment of the wicked.

Because I have made the LORD my dwelling—my refuge, the Most High—no evil will befall me, no plague will approach my tent.

If you are feeling despair during this trying time, why not talk to God? He wants to hear from you and build a personal relationship with you as your Heavenly Father.

Friends, I have not lived on this world that long, but I’ve lived long enough to realize that there is only one thing that truly satisfies and brings peace, and that is knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

We’re all sinners and have fallen from God’s grace, but God loved us so much that He sent His Son, the Prince of Peace, to Earth to suffer the punishment for our sins. He died on the cross, our sins nailed to the cross with his beaten and broken body. We should have been the ones nailed to that cross.

But the Gospel, the Good News, is that even though Christ died for us, he did not stay dead. He rose again on the third day to spend eternity with the Father, and someday soon—very soon—he will return to reap what the Father has sown. We too can spend eternal life with God, if only we declare Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord over our lives and live a life worthy of the calling that God gives to us.

So I encourage you—and I’ve not been the best about this—to use this time of social distancing, perhaps social isolation for some, to learn more about Emmanuel, God With Us. Pick up a Bible and start to read. If you don’t have one, download the YouVersion app to your phone. Call or email a pastor near you to pray with you.

We could be on the verge of a global Great Awakening as more and more people, burdened physically, mentally, and emotionally, start calling out to God for deliverance. I pray that He will accomplish good through this pestilence that may be intended for evil. And I believe He will.

God bless you, friends. Take care. We will get through this.

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