Local Opinion: Slowing down, helping out — a few silver linings of coronavirus
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Local Opinion: Slowing down, helping out — a few silver linings of coronavirus

I am writing this because I literally have nothing to do at the moment. Like everyone, I am stuck at home. This is mostly a mental thing for me, because I am retired and home most of the time anyway … but when I am told I “must” stay home, that is somehow different.

I’m writing about the silver lining of COVID-19. There is much misery right now. There is death, joblessness and some really awful things are happening. I can turn on the TV and hear about that 24/7 if I choose to. But I also feel there is a silver lining in what is happening.

This country has been severely divided for over three years now. I have “lost” friends and family. But since this tragedy struck the entire world, I now see a deep sense of community and healing that is happening.

I see celebrities doing free “concerts,” donating millions of dollars, sending thoughts of “stay well, stay healthy, we’re all in this together” and many other well wishes. I see storefronts, media outlets and business owners that are sending the same message. Somehow the political discord has taken a back seat for now and we have almost forgotten about what’s going on in that arena. We are beginning to appreciate our service people more and especially those who are risking their lives so that we can make ours better.

I see neighbors, friends and people who don’t know each other extending themselves just for the pleasure of helping. People who have little are sharing with others who have even less. Personal shoppers, food shoppers, and home delivery workers are all serving us, and we are showing them how appreciative we are.

I see people calling friends and family to check on them and make sure they’re OK. I see “calling trees” from churches and other organizations that are calling members just to say “Hi, how are you doing during this difficult time? Do you need anything?”

There seems to be more compassion and less judgment, at least for now. Even the media is trying to help by broadcasting reruns of sports events and marathons of old popular shows like “The Twilight Zone.” People in Italy are hanging out of their apartment windows and singing together.

I have not seen statistics on local/national/global volunteering, but I’m going to guess it’s off the charts. People seem eager to help.

Connectivity. We have proved that we need each other and that having people in our lives make our lives sweeter. How many times have we seen friends or family sitting in a restaurant not talking to each other, but instead consumed with whatever device they have?

BUT, let a virus take away our human face-to-face experiences for a few weeks and we find ourselves lonely, bored and craving human connection. Skype, Zoom and other platforms of connecting are soaring, and friends and family are re-connecting like never before.

Parents and children are also re-connecting and are trying to navigate through this difficult period. How many cute things and laughable moments did we miss when we were too busy? Why are we soooo busy? Yes, there are jobs, soccer, dance classes and so on, but now that we are all experiencing an enforced “slow down” we could possibly see what we‘ve been missing by being overly scheduled.

And let’s talk about pets. I’m guessing that all of our pets are thrilled that we are home all the time — what a fun, fun time for them. When we finally return to the way things used to be our pets will be pretty sad and lonely.

People are learning to be creative at home. Some are taking a jab at learning a new language while hobbies and craft projects are being dusted off and board games being played.

Parents are learning how to home school their kids and discovering what teachers actually do. And hopefully, families are taking this opportunity to smooth out rough spots with one another. We are being forced to be together and work with difficult family dynamics.

People are walking and bicycling more. I see so many more people outdoors than before. This is good for both the body and soul. People are enjoying sunrises and sunsets because there is nothing else to do. I heard that pollution in densely populated areas of the world is improving. The air smells better, the birds are singing and the sky that was once smoky and gray is now blue. We have stopped driving to our mailboxes and now walk to them … how can this be a bad thing?

People are listening to more music and learning from podcasts, YouTube and other popular ways of connecting to the outside world. There are virtual tours of museums and national parks that have been put online just for our pleasure. Hiking is on the rise, exercising at home is becoming more popular and some are learning how to meditate. Staying in pajamas all day and showering less might be appealing to those who have to wear stiff office attire every day. All good things, right?

People are cooking more and eating out less, and we may be comforting ourselves with food. We are probably filling boring moments by eating more. There will be nothing different in my refrigerator right now than there was an hour ago, but I still check it out frequently.

Some people are relearning how to cook, trying new recipes and perhaps teaching the kids how to cook. And I can only imagine how much “baking therapy” is happening. When the world gets back to normal and the sweat pants come off, some of us will be more “fluffy,” but wasn’t it fun for a while? Maybe a few extra pounds will have been worth it after years of denying ourselves “fun” food.

When I go for walks I sometimes see neighbors sitting on their front porches yelling across the street, laughing and even having a bit of wine “together.” Street dance parties while keeping social distancing are happening everywhere and everyone seems to be having FUN doing this. More books are being read and what a delight to have more time to do so. Yes, again FUN.

Houses are being cleaned, dust balls and disgusting, dead bugs and unidentifiable objects are being vacuumed, lawns are being cared for, windows are being washed, closets and drawers are being cleaned and organized and things that we have not used in years are being donated. I see bags line the curbs, ready for pickup all the time now. Massive spring cleaning is happening. The places we shop are being cleaned and sanitized, perhaps for the first time ever. So, in my mind, our world will be a cleaner place. I like that.

There undoubtedly will be more sadness in the form of divorces, alcohol and drug abuse and so on. But we are truly learning, albeit the hard way, that we need each other. We have been forced to be alone with ourselves.

I hope things don’t ever return to our old “normal.” I hope that we have a new normal that is more inclusive of others and that people become more important than devices or money. Overconfidence in any economy is not good. Jobs will never be completely secure. Our 401(k)s will fluctuate as the stock market goes up and down. This is a good time to evaluate one’s finances and if possible, save for these kinds of unexpected tragedies.

Long, shaggy hair, roots that are gray, double chins, baggy clothes— will we even recognize everyone when we are once again face to face?

I also believe that in nine months we will see an entire new generation. The fear of low births in this country may have taken care of itself. I’m trying to decide what these new boomers should be called. Coronabooms, Gen2020, Genocorona? We should have a contest.

I do have to pass on this story: Recently, while waiting for my grocery pickup order, I noticed a man come out of the store in a plastic jacket, mask, hat and heavy gloves. Wow, he was protecting himself from the harmful virus. Then he pulled his mask down and as it dangled from his ears and rested on his chin, he lit up a cigarette and casually smoked it by the curb. Gotta marvel at human nature.

And finally, I have learned about the importance of keeping a good supply of toilet paper on hand, just for uncertain times. I’m going to keep a few in my home vault and move the expensive jewelry to an old drawer in my bathroom. I have now learned which one is more valuable.

Deena Harris and her husband moved to Sun City Arizona in 2010 from Colorado. She is passionate about education and is active in Sun City’s Institute of Learning in Retirement. They take part in many community clubs, including square dancing with SaddleBrooke Squares.

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