Walk a mile in their shoes

The air felt fresh and clean yesterday when we left our apartment and went outside to walk during the two hours allotted for exercise under the full curfew. A handful of people, all safely distanced from each other and most wearing masks, strolled along the street. Birds chirped and a few stray cats slunk along the sidewalks and behind the wheels of parked cars.
Our daughters, outside for the first time in more than two months, laughed and joked, excited and happy just to be outdoors for a few minutes. It felt wonderful to be outside, to walk in the sunshine and feel the slight breeze on our bare faces.

We walked for half an hour, circling our block and keeping as much as possible to the shaded areas on the streets. Along the main street, the road grew busy as dozens of walkers and joggers passed by. Most wore masks and thankfully there was still enough space that everyone kept a distance from each other. We are incredibly lucky to live in an area that is not overcrowded.

Many people in Kuwait, however, are not so lucky. They live in densely populated areas with narrow streets crammed with parked cars, no sidewalks and no gardens or walkways. Videos and photos from Khaitan, Salmiya, Farwaniya, Jleeb and other areas showed closely-packed crowds (most of whom were men) walking almost side by side through the streets. Some of them were wearing masks but many were not. There were fights on the streets between knots of ‘exercisers’; others exploited the outdoor hours to dash to the grocery store for supplies, people driving cars and even riding bicycles against the Cabinet’s directive.

The full curfew completed its third day only and already people are feeling the intense pressure of the lockdown. The outdoor exercise hours are meant as a time to allow people to maintain their physical and mental health, offering an important break from the feeling of being trapped indoors. No one wants to lose the freedom of these two precious hours.

But for those who live in a crowded area with no park or walking path, with tens of thousands of others stacked on top of each other in tiny apartments, what other option do they have?
It’s easy to judge those people walking crowded areas and the comments on social media illustrated the harsh lack of empathy. But in these times of global crisis, what’s needed is more empathy. Instead of judging or criticizing those who were out walking, people need to try walking a mile in each other’s shoes.

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