By Dennis Lopez
Listening to Bob Marley sing in my headphones about how “every little things goin’ to be alright” makes me hope he is right and forget that we are hunkered down and sheltering in place from a worldwide pandemic. But we are. The rubber gloves I am wearing as I type this are mute evidence of my wife’s deep concern for my welfare. I did manage to eschew wearing a surgical mask in my own house.
Things taken for granted before, such as going to the post office or the grocery store, now seem like a run through the sniper-filled streets of Iraq or Afghanistan. At every turn it seems nature has planted invisible, microbial IEDs; a single wrong move, a handshake, a nearby sneeze could bring serious illness or even death. We dress to leave the house as though preparing for a deep space mission: gloves/check, face mask/check, hand sanitizer/check; and out the airlock we go.
This killer virus, this COVID-19, has changed my street, my town, my state and my country…our world. For how long is anybody’s guess.
As the death toll climbs, it seems incredible to learn there are those willing to buck the state’s social distancing orders to attend meetings in large groups rather than follow the directives to avoid groups. The order is temporary; death is permanent.
For our part, Laurie and I are keeping our social distance. In fact, I think it’s been a couple of days since I last saw my wife. I know she’s in the house because someone shoved a tin of beans and a slice of Velveeta cheese-like substance under my office door an hour ago with an “I Love You (your name here)” note written on the napkin. Okay, it wasn’t really a napkin. With the paper product hoarding that’s been going on, we’re reduced to using pages out of one of the coloring books left over from one of our kids.
Actually, we were pretty well prepared for this pandemic paper panic. No doubt in our state there are multiple hundreds of folks who regularly stored lots of stuff up for religious reasons. Others because they see storing food and other necessary stuff like bullets, toilet paper and paper towels as a means to survival in a post-apocalyptic world.
I admit we have cases of Costco toilet paper stored in our garage. Not because we were brilliant pandemic preppers, but because my wife and I rarely are in sync when we shop. For example, we had two cases of Costco toilet tissue on hand because my wife bought one and, on one of my long ago, pre-quarantine trips to Costco, told me we needed paper towels. Seems that paper towel and toilet tissue packaging can be confusing, especially to someone my age, whose mind is focused on tasty Costco samples (they will be back, someday). I absentmindedly bought a case of toilet tissue as well as a case of paper towels.
Yet paper shortages, gloves, mask, germs…all of it cannot seem to dampen the indominatable, creative and determined human spirit. I see that in my own grown children. Our son works from home as a data analyst in the Midwest. One daughter is a drug and alcohol counselor who has kept her promise to those who seek her help, just not face to face. It’s done via computer screen. She says it is hard because she is the kind of counselor who does best in person. Yet her work goes on, as does that of my youngest daughter, a recent graduate of Boise State University’s education program.
For a long time she taught via computer, now she has returned to her classroom. As a teacher at Lakewood Montessori School, Jenna says the hardest part is explaining the need for extreme caution to a room full of 3- to 5-year-olds.
“Illness is an abstract concept,” she explained to me. “Linking cause and effect is difficult to convey, but children, even very young children, are remarkable in their ability to adapt.”
I am not an educator. In fact I am certain there is an entire platoon of teachers who would universally agree that I was not even a student. But I can grasp the remarkable picture she paints of the character of children.
She says the concept of germs or pandemics or viruses may not resonate with her class of pre-school kids, but they share one common goal: to help keep their fellow classmates, parents or their community at large from getting sick.
Free from the polarizing influence of those who deny the need for precaution or even the reality of this worldwide pandemic, of mask-or-no-mask, open or close businesses, or refusal to socially distance, they are contributors to the greater good.
So these children, those whom those of us in the adult word would consider just out of the toddler stage, are in reality more focused on helping others as well as themselves remain well.
“They are showing one another a sense of humanity, of sharing the bond of dealing with an issue larger than themselves,” she patiently explained to me. “It’s a lot like what I think Americans were like during wartime, or perhaps post-9/11. They are outside of the bounds of politics or societal anger and the polarization that comes from it.
“They simply want to contribute as a group and as individuals for the betterment of all.”