March 20, 2020

The Epidemic, Spring, and Me

Today is the first full day of spring, and it's already 72 degrees on my apartment porch.  The pear trees, daffs, flowering cherries, maples and and a number of other pollen-laden plants are having at it.  Allergies abound, and an epidemic is in full swing.

I'm not going to talk about the panic buying at the stores, or the hordes of people coming to the beaches in this encouraged self-isolation.  There are enough hand-wringers out there.  What is amazing and so damned encouraging to me is that in light of the fact that the federal government has known about the impending epidemic for two months now, and subsequently failed to notify even the state or local governments, the Helpers arrived.

Teachers, at a moment's notice, figured out how to stream classes and rewrite their class syllabuses to accommodate distance teaching. Local governments, state, county, and city, have taken action across the country to take care of their citizens.  Restaurants and school districts are enacting free lunch schedules for kids, whether at-risk, or not.  Individuals are reaching out, contacting those who are alone, scared, at-risk. And their care is still evolving.

We've lived in a society of Instant Gratification for several decades, and it has been encouraged by the internet.  We have instant access to our friends, to news, to gossip, to information.  Our circles of friends has become world-wide, and we communicate on a regular basis.

I found a letter recently, written by a great-grand-uncle to his sister, in the late 1870's.  he gave her sad news, of the death of his wife.  The letter took weeks to arrive.  The sister could not go to the funeral, grieve with the family, talk to her brother.  It was all done silently, remotely, and weeks later.  Today, we know instantly of every happening locally and at a distance -- no waiting weeks for newspapers or letters to arrive, or news to filter from foreign correspondents to their editors, to the publications, to us.  The good news is that we know--quickly..The bad news is that we know--quickly.  what matters is how we deal with it.  Attitude is everything. 

My two greatest incentives to do anything are anticipation of reward and fear of punishment: gold stars or switches.  I have enough - toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soap, food, although I'm not hoarding.  I know this will pass.  I know that our society has been through worse.  I know how quickly fear can spread on the wings of rumor.

Breathe, my friends, breathe.  we will get through this.  We will be changed.  We will know our own strengths and weaknesses better.  we will cement friendships, and lose friends.  We will rediscover our core values of compassion, patience, care, love, and community.   We are better than our base instincts to hoard and isolate, for we are stronger together.  And, there are always helpers.  Look for them.  Support them.  Become one.  Be safe.  And wash your hands like you mean it.