An Algorithm for Survival

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    Algorithm is a buzz word that makes us sound intelligent and current whenever we use it.

    It’s been making the rounds since more than a year ago, and is a word now used—finally without fear—by people like me who were mercilessly decimated by Calculus and Trigonometry.

    Pandemic. Yet another scary word. Doctors went on for weeks, warning us about its impending arrival. Being a child who grew up in the same house with young people who were studying to be doctors, I’ve somehow developed a keen sensitivity to anything that smells, even the faintest, of a medical fluke or emergency. So I immediately stocked up on our hygiene supplies, toiletries, food, vitamins and maintenance meds—weeks before a pandemic was declared. This built-in survival algorithm spared me from mad dashes to the drugstores and arduous hours of standing in line at the supermarket.

    In the coming weeks, most of us will develop, establish, evolve, and constantly tweak our own algorithms for survival. I’m sure there’s a plethora of ways for surviving and coping with this pandemic. But here are a few basic ones that I’ve found useful.

    Clear your mind of debris. You are what you think. What you think will determine your mood, decisions, actions. Every time we’re slipping into a vortex of fear, panic, depression, hopelessness—just recognize it as temporary. Like hunger pangs. The minute we feed ourselves, the hunger pangs disappear.

    How do you make your fear/panic disappear? Clear your mind of debris. PRAY. Ask Jesus to help you, rescue you, give you His peace which surpasses all understanding. It’s a two-word prayer: Jesus, HELP. You can expand it to three words, if you’re calm enough: Jesus, help me/us.

    The Bible is replete with stories of how God “hears the cries of His people.” He never sleeps, and He can read your mind. He can hear the prayers of millions of people praying simultaneously! Let me say that again: Simultaneously. Do you know anyone who can listen to, and understand, millions of people talking at the same time? I don’t. No human being or saint who ever lived can do that—so, logically, why not just go straight to the One who can surely hear you, and has the strongest arsenal of power to help you? That’s Jesus. Please don’t settle for anyone else.

    Obey government authority. Stay home—even if you feel healthy and strong. You’ve heard it said: you might be strong enough to withstand the virus but you can be a CARRIER who’ll infect those around you. You don’t want anyone to get sick or die because of you.

    Stop ranting. Stop criticizing people, policies, or procedures. Stop doing anything that spreads undue hate and negativism. If you don’t, then you’re a virus yourself.

    Reflect on things that are important. Now that you’ll have to stay home or drastically limit your mobility (I’m talking about ordinary people like me who don’t have to be out there), as you’re decluttering, spring-cleaning, organizing your closets and drawers, etc.—look at all the things you can’t use or wear in the next few weeks. My goodness. The jewelry. The watches, bags, shoes, clothes, sports gear, etc. Look at all the stuff you’ve invested in, and accumulated. All the things that have to stay right where they are, hidden from sight. Hidden from everyone but you.

    I was thinking to myself the other day: would I have bought this if it were just me who was going to see it?

    So in the next few weeks, we’ll be amused to see “power dressing” jump out the window.

    Who’s there to intimidate or impress at home? Quite comical, right? But if you like dressing up for yourself, then hurray for you! And I’m not being sarcastic here. I have friends who love dressing up, even when they’re just home.

    Then there are all those flashy multi-million-peso babies just sitting in garages right now.

    Who’s going to gawk at those cars these days? Would you have bought them if they were just going to sit in your garage, with no one looking at them? If there were no highways you could thunder over? This isn’t a guilt trip. It’s just an honest question to help us evaluate our priorities and spending habits.

    Recalibrate relationships. This is unavoidable when you’re forced to stay in the same house or living space for a month, at least, with the same people. It can be hell. Or it can be a divine revelation. It can be your last chance at saving your marriage. It can be a golden, God-given opportunity to improve your relationship with your children, and whoever else is living with you. Take advantage of it. Show them that you can be a joy to live with. That you’re not a pain in the neck. They might actually forgive you and change their opinion of you!

    Do good to your family and neighbors. It can be as simple as keeping your surroundings clean, your garbage bins in order. You can send your neighbor a surprise dessert, some fruits or vegetables you can spare, or anything they may find useful. I’m sending my neighbor a bottle of sparkling juice later. It might not be the healthiest option, but I’m sure it’ll “spark joy”! Be a harbinger of happiness, not misery.

    Keep abreast with the news. It’s our responsibility to know what going on; what the government wants us to do; how to do things that will help, not harm others. This is the time to be deliberately unselfish, and be intentionally concerned for others. Let’s not kid ourselves. We are all selfish. I’ve had no “I’m generous” illusions about myself. Curb those terrible impulses to grab, disrespect rules, cut into lines, or use connections for unfair advantage.

    Don’t panic, be prepared. This is a gem that I learned from two people: my mom. And my former boss who was a general. Instead of panicking (please don’t think you’re superior just because you’re not panicking)—prepare. Think ahead: if things get worse, what do I need to do now? Ask wisdom from God because you can forget major stuff. I’m a forgetful person by nature, so I learned early in life to ask God for wisdom whenever I had to prepare for anything. It was a huge help that most of my life, I’ve been surrounded by classmates and co-workers who are way smarter than me, so asking God for wisdom has been part of my survival algorithm. If you think you’re smarter than most, well then, use it to help others! Share the good stuff you know.

    Be thankful. Every day. As often as you can, be thankful. As you deep-breathe for 10 seconds or more to make sure your lungs are ok and you don’t have the virus, thank God for all the good things you’re enjoying now. Train yourself not to take things for granted. And ask yourself often: Are people thankful for me? Hmmm. Be honest when you answer this one.

    Finally, use this time to stock up on your Happy Hormones! It’s been scientifically proven that being happy, joyful, thankful, cheerful, boosts our immune system—aside from making us visually attractive. I’ve had very dear friends who had/have cancer. One of them told me, decades ago, that she always looks for clean, wholesome, funny, happy things to read, watch, and talk about. She eats food that makes her happy. She does things that make her happy. She goes with people who make her happy. And so she lived eight years longer than she was expected to.

    My friend did something extraordinary—she asked God for a healing miracle, or an extended life, and a happy life for however long God was allowing her to stay here. God answered her prayers!

    Only God knows if this virus will be annihilated, if things will go back to normal, if your business is going to survive, if we’ll have enough doctors and medical staff to take care of the sick, if the medicines and supplies will hold up, if humanity will step up and become decent human beings after all. Only God knows what’s waiting for us round the bend.

    But we can be sure of this one thing: Jesus is always with us—and He’ll be there, waiting round the bend for us. So there’s nothing to be afraid of.

    If you’ve already surrendered your life to Christ, He’s got you covered.