At one of his daily coronavirus pandemic news briefings, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo related a personal story which struck a chord with me. He said that one time when he was younger he told his grandmother about “a guy and a girl” he encountered who he thought were nice. His grandmother advised the young future Governor not to judge whether someone is nice when things are ‘nice’. She said that he should make this decision based on how the person behaves when things are hard.
The story led to Governor Cuomo sharing examples of people he’s observed who have risen to the occasion through their impressive behaviour during the difficult time of the pandemic. That sparked the idea for this article. In the following sections, I will discuss examples of people who have shone through with their behaviour during this time of crisis and provide ideas on ways you can be one of those who rises to the occasion.
Those who have risen to the occasion during the pandemic
The obvious examples of those who have stepped up during this crisis include people who have provided essential services. Among these are doctors and nurses, paramedics, associated medical workers, transportation workers (e.g., bus and train operators, truck drivers and railway employees), food industry workers (e.g., at grocery stores, farms and food processing plants), pharmacy workers, postal and delivery workers, those working in personal care homes and institutions (e.g., prisons), teachers, political leaders, government workers, and people working for news organizations. Please forgive me if I have overlooked anyone!
Less obvious examples of people who have stepped up during this crisis are many people who display the behaviours I will discuss in the next section without necessarily being recognized for doing so.
Behaviours which exemplify rising to the occasion
It’s easy during a crisis to focus on yourself. And to a certain degree that is necessary and beneficial. However, it takes a bigger person to look beyond themselves and perform acts which help other people. The pandemic has illustrated many instances of people doing just that through acts like phoning or video-chatting with someone who may be lonely and delivering groceries to someone is unable to leave their home.
Doing your job or chore without complaining
It’s easy and understandable when you’re frustrated to complain. That is especially the case when circumstances like a crisis require you to do more than you usually do or to do more than others from the perspective of fairness. And if it is reasonable to raise concerns and you do so in a constructive manner, complaining can be a reasonable action to take.
Having said that, rising to the occasion often entails resisting the urge and opportunity to complain and ‘going beyond the call of duty’ in getting your job or task done. Examples include a worker going the extra mile rather than performing to the minimum based on their job description and a family member such as a parent or child doing extra chores to help out during this difficult time.
Working cooperatively with someone you don’t like
During the pandemic, I have admired those political leaders who have put aside their differences with other leaders to work with them for the good of the people who they are all serving. Similarly, you may have the opportunity to cooperate with someone at work or in your family with whom you don’t normally get along. It takes courage and integrity to rise to the occasion in this way.
A crisis like the pandemic disrupts your routine so that you are unable to engage in some activities in which you used to engage. And for those activities in which you can still engage, there may be hassles which make it challenging to engage in them or create delays in your ability to do so. Displaying patience in general and toward other people in particular is a key behaviour of those who rise to the occasion.
Using the Serenity Prayer to foster acceptance
The Serenity Prayer is often a guidepost for people experiencing adversity. It reads as follows: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Heeding the message of the Serenity Prayer fosters the ability to rise to the occasion regardless of how religious you are.
In closing, it is not a coincidence that I began this article by referring to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. From watching how he has conducted himself throughout this difficult period, I believe he epitomizes rising to the occasion.
May you be one of those who rises to the occasion in a difficult situation,