In light of recent world events and the stories we’ve been hearing on the news about the shortages of necessities like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, I would like to take a little time and talk about the collectionist culture we live in today. 

Note that I said collectionist and not collectivist. Two very different things. The word “collectionist” is a word I made up to describe people who have a habit of collecting items percieved to be of some value. Specifically, this pertains to the (usually) Western tradition of having collections of things. Books, mugs, comics, watermelons (at least for people in math problems). 

Some people collect things that either have emotional/personal value, like childhood birthday cards or their grandmother’s old china. Some collect things with current monetary value, like gold or silver. And others collect things that may have monetary value in the future, like stamps, Funkos, wheatback pennies, or Cabbage Patch dolls. And some people just collect things that they like or enjoy. 

Most people that I know have at least one collection of some sort, or have a family member who has collected things for them. I myself have collections of books, Funkos, comics, yarn, film score CDs, musical instruments, Sacajawea dollar coins, and porcelain bells from every US state I’ve ever been to. I’m not in any way saying there is anything wrong with having collections. 

However, when you look at the news of late, you see a slightly different kind of collecting. As per definition, these collections are comprised of things that are perceived to have value. Except this time, the value is not monetary or personal. Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other things of which most stores are struggling to keep in stock are valuable now because of their scarcity. 

I read an article yesterday about a store employee who encountered an older gentleman in the toilet paper aisle, walking back and forth between the empty shelves with a bewildered expression on his face. A few minutes later, the employee observed the same man in the paper towel aisle, putting the pack into his cart with the words, “These will have to do”. 

That’s heartbreaking to me. Some people, driven by fear of the virus, have stockpiled and hoarded so many of these essential resources for themselves that the most vulnerable of us: the elderly, the very young, and the immunocompromised, those of us who have a much harder time fending for themselves, are left to pick up the scraps behind those who, in fear, have “collected” much more than we actually need. 

This is wrong and should not be happening. We as a society should not let fear control our actions. Cultures, economies, and relationships rise and fall depending on how we treat those more vulnerable than ourselves, and judging by the news of today, we are not handling this situation well. 

To anyone reading this article, if you have collected more resources than you need of anything (and I mean ANYTHING) that is essential, I beg you to turn your mind and heart to the needs of others and consider what you can do to spread those resources to those who need them more than you do. 

There is so much we can do on that front! Think about hospitals, retirement communities, daycares, homeless shelters, and so many more places. The world will get through this virus, of that I have no doubt. The only question is, how will we get through it?