It was my 27th or 28th birthday, and I was living in NYC and training at Grandmaster (GM) Kim’s school on 50th St. I was upset because I hadn’t heard from my parents yet for my birthday. When I complained to GM Kim, he told me that I should be calling them to thank them for the gift of life and for raising me! Woah. That threw me for a loop. I was so righteous that at first I defended my position, saying “but it’s my birthday!” like maybe he misunderstood me. I must have sounded like a brat, but he explained to me that it was custom in Korea to call and thank your parents on your birthday. You might even get them a gift as thanks for raising you. The custom immediately made sense and resonated with me, and I still call my parents on my birthday, if they don’t beat me to it.

I share this as a clear example of my mind being shifted from a self-centered way of thinking to a broader one, one where others’ happiness comes before my own. There are many examples.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m Gen X and we’ve been trained to stay home and out of the way, or if it’s my co-dependent tendency to lay low and not draw attention to myself; but it is training as a martial artist, not just the kicking and punching but the mindset, that frames staying at home as the humanitarian thing to do. In fact, public service is one of the activities recommended for taekwondo practitioners to develop compassion, humility, camaraderie, tolerance and a sense of generosity, all things we can use in everyday life.

I’ve been following the Stay at Home order since before St. Patrick’s Day. That makes it about Day 23 for me. At the start, the virus was thought to be more dangerous for older people and those with compromised immune systems. I wasn’t terribly concerned for myself, but followed the order for the greater good. My desire to socialize or dine out, when that was still a thing, wasn’t more important than the health of my neighbors. When I see many news reports, what’s missing is civic virtue.

Some individuals, even in our own communities, are so concerned over their own wants and perceived needs that they don’t see how their actions affect others, but they’re not alone in this. We are all learning, and this is not the time for pointing fingers. It’s time to come together. It’s time for civic responsibility.

It’s time to come together. It’s time for civic responsibility.

Everyone desires a free and peaceful society, but it is also our duty to create that society. (This is not just a martial arts code, but it’s also reflected in the 10 Principles of Burning Man.) It’s incumbent on us, as citizens and participating members of our beloved communities, to be the change.

California was the first state to issue a Stay at Home Order, and unlike other orders that have already been extended, ours is in effect until further notice. The Stay at Home order is meant to protect our more vulnerable populations. I fear people are not being present to the people in their own lives who have compromised immune systems. My mother in Long Island and her seemingly chronic bouts with bronchitis and pneumonia, and several friends who are in various stages of fighting cancer immediately came to my mind, and those are just the ones who’s health issues I’m aware of. I know there are so many more.

My invitation to you, is to consider others before yourself, and if Civic Responsibility isn’t the frame for you, try shifting your perspective from being ordered to stay, to staying safe at home. Oh, and wash your hands.