This newest virus, this Covid-19, has left a trail of destruction unlike anything we’ve seen. The list of woes is long—
Deaths of tens of thousands, perhaps more than a hundred thousand Americans before it is through
Major disruptions to our economy, bringing to cities, states and untold businesses to the edge of bankruptcy
Overwhelming stress on many of the country’s hospital systems, including claiming far too many of its hardest workers as victims of the pandemic
Remarkable strain on families because they are separated and can’t see or comfort those they love or they are confined together in the same space for way too long
Anxiety, apprehension and fear of the most vulnerable among us—the elderly and those with chronic conditions or weakened immune systems.
And it doesn’t appear that we are going to move past all this anytime soon.
So what are our choices?
We can stew in our juices, heaping paranoia atop the very real fear this has all engendered. Or we can place blame, point fingers and make accusations. OR we can protect ourselves, deal with the challenges and push on.
“What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”
I choose the last.
In fact, I’ve found that, like beyond every dark cloud there lie better possibilities, struggling through the pandemic has given me appreciation for a number of simple things in life I’d taken granted before. And, once restored, I plan to cherish again.
Simple things like—
Hugging my wonderful granddaughter while she’s still young enough to want a hug from an old guy
Taking my wife out for a simple dinner at one of our favorite restaurants where someone else makes the meal, serves it and cleans up the dishes
Doing water aerobics in the senior pool at the Y along with a dozen of our friends and acquaintances also committed to water exercise
Playing our favorite board and card games with family and friends gathered together around the large dining room table at our house
Being able to board a flight to see our grandkids in Northern California or take a drive to visit the grandkids outside Atlanta
Getting a haircut at local salon (my wife says I look like an elderly fifth Beatle)
Even listening and watching my favorite team—the Reds—even if I only want to yell at them for screwing up another season.
Like everyone else, I’ve railed against the lockdown and restrictions and hated to witness what it was all doing to the economy—even though I understand the reasons, at least on a rational level. But I’ve also noticed a few unexpected benefits.
Without the traffic and the manufacturing fires burning, the air has grown cleaner, clearer. When I’m out on one of my common walks—and now bike rides—I can tell the difference in my breathing. Even in the middle of spring allergy season, my asthma is quiet and comfortable. And, though I can’t travel to the places, I’ve seen the incredibly clear photos of the Arch de Triumphe in Paris, the LA skyline and the streets of Manhattan. It’s as if the earth is taking a deep breath along with us.
On those walks around the neighborhood, I see whole families—mom, dad, a teenager, a preteen and a toddler—out strolling together and talking. No one has their head down buried in a phone. (I’d guess they’ve all had enough screen time indoors.) Before this crisis, I can’t remember the last time I saw a sight like this. It’s just that we all so busy—with pilates and soccer games and dance class and golfing and karate—that families have precious little time together. Now that has certainly changed.
Most days I try to call one or two friends or family members, just to check in and make sure they are all safe and healthy. I’m surprised they are all available and anxious to talk. No texting or Instagram—though I know many are doing those. But, to a person, everyone I call is grateful I called and anxious to talk and share their story. Some I haven’t seen for years, but all that time melts away as we face a common, invisible enemy.
And thanks to some excellent media coverage, most Americans are recognizing the unselfish and heroic work of first responders, who everyday put others’ needs ahead of their own fears and concerns. This commitment by doctors, nurses and EMT’s is nothing new—although more dangerous now—but many who didn’t notice before are taking note and expressing their appreciation.
I’ve heard from a number of parents who now that have been given the challenge of trying to teach their children at home have expressed a new appreciation for the exemplary work that teachers do to teach not only their kid, but an entire class of youngsters or teenagers.
No, none of these revelations are worth the pain, fear and suffering we all enduring. But I have to leave the solution to those problems to someone else, whether I like it or not. I choose to focus on those lessons that can we can carry forward.
And not take for granted the next time I get to hug my grandkids or get a massage or laughing when I lose at the next game of Uno Attack.
And perhaps, I won’t wait for a crisis to reach out to all the friends and family that have stayed silent in my address book.
Maybe, just maybe I can be a better me, when we come out the other side of this, Peace.