Corona has already taught us a lot. A lot about ourselves. A lot about each other. A lot about how our society is set up. And maybe a lot about how lucky we’ve been.
I have realized how often I come into contact with SO MANY people! I never really thought about how interconnected we all are. From the gym where I share equipment with dozens of members, to my job in a library circulating books from hundreds of households most days, to going through the door of the grocery store, grabbing a cart without a thought for wiping the push handle, etc. In light of the corona crisis and my newfound hyperawareness of germs, surfaces, and more, I think sometimes it’s a miracle I am still alive and healthy!
(Confession: I have been moved for years by the scientific revelation that the Amish have fewer allergies in their population likely because they are exposed to dust and allergens early and systematically. I always used this as a back pocket justification for my disheveled, dusty house. Ok, I know it’s a stretch, but I am not a fan of cleaning! Still, at times I have thought that we oversanitize our lives to our detriment. Covid has me rethinking that approach at the moment, with my bucket of bleach solution in hand, replacing that back pocket argument with a mini hand sanitizer.)
From the beginning of the corona crisis, I have seen the war metaphor as useful. I generally don’t like it when we talk about everyday things using war phrases. For example, I cringe when we talk about educators who are “in the trenches” or the need to “bite the bullet.” But in my mind, corona is a war. We all are fighting it. And there are people, heroes, on the frontline.
We can see a similarity between now and wartime as well, knowing that in our history, times of war often bring about the greatest lasting transformation. Huge leaps forward in creativity, innovation, problem-solving, and efficiency happen in wartime. Problems take on new urgency. We already see this today in experimenting with existing medications, splitting ventilators to serve multiple patients, and more. Even small businesses like restaurants and retailers are being forced to move forward in new directions, using online ordering, repackaging their offerings to suit families, and so on. Distilleries are retrofitting to make hand sanitizer. Gyms are delivering classes online, offering advice and help on form through videos, and so on. It is a time of great change in more areas of life than we can count.
We are seeing how many meetings could have been emails. We are learning why dozens of Zoom meetings are exhausting. Also, we are seeing why sometimes physical proximity honestly can’t be replaced. Social distancing, my bet for Oxford’s Word of the Year, is everywhere on the news these days. I get it. It matters, and apparently it works. But, I can’t be the only one who is tired of that term, even confused by it. Really, it should be called physical distancing. Basically keeping bodies (and germs) as far away from each other as we can. We still need to connect socially in meaningful ways. A recent podcast about loneliness and its’ many consequences only reinforces this.
I realized early on in this crisis, people are what we look forward to. People are what we cherish. Our daily connections matter. It’s easy to slip into lonely. Distant. Detached, even depressed. Social connection is more important than ever. And in some ways connecting is as easy as it has ever been. Technology affords us so many possibilities, but weeks later I realize it only goes so far. Check on people. Make plans to see your people safely, even if it is hanging out car windows with a cup of coffee.
I try to stay optimistic as much as I can. This time is fuel that will push societies and communities in new directions. Things will be lost along the way, including, I fear, many local “mom-and-pop” businesses that give our communities their unique character. Adapt and Overcome, another military motto, comes to mind here. Those who can’t adapt may have a hard time making it, especially if this haul turns out to be a long one. Support the local businesses you want to see make it to the other side of this war. Their survival may depend on your dollars!
As it is with post-war eras, things will also be gained. Technologies we can’t even imagine yet will become commonplace. We will have new and meaningful ways to connect. If we focus on nourishing and sustaining what matters, it has a better chance of surviving, and so do we. We will adapt and we will overcome.