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SANDY WALKER WRITES
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
Charles Dickens' opening line of A Tale of Two Cities is one of the most famous lines of fiction ever written. People who have never read a page of the novel can identify the opening line. It seems to fit our country--even before COVID-19 struck--to the proverbial T. President Trump proclaims these days as the best the United States has seen in decades. His dissenters loudly and vehemently proclaim these as “the worst of times.” I won’t argue one side or the other.
Lesser-known, but very significant, lines by Dickens
These lines follow directly after the famous opening line of A Tale of Two Cities. They strike a chord with me! Aside from a few days right after 911, I can’t recall a time when wisdom and foolishness, belief and incredulity, Light and Darkness, hope and despair ever displayed themselves before us so vividly as they have in the weeks since we all became acquainted with COVID-19.
One key difference between 911 and now is the fact that 911 united us as a nation. We’d been violated and were ready to fight the enemy. Conversely, COVID-19 has heightened philosophical differences and widened political gaps within America. It has fomented vitriol and contempt to the point that some of us seem to be itching--literally--to fight our own countrymen.
In a few short weeks COVID-19 has also changed the fabric of our daily lives; we shop, eat, work, educate our children, and amuse ourselves differently than we did a few weeks ago. As it has redesigned the warp and woof of our days, COVID-19 has showcased the wisdom and foolishness of people. It has tested our beliefs and--at times--left us incredulous. It has revealed rays of Light in a great season of Darkness, and left us wondering when the spring of hope will outpace a winter of despair.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to instantly discover a vaccine to stop COVID-19 in its tracks? How absolutely glorious it would be to know that tens of thousands of lives would be spared and that struggling economies could begin to recover! That people could share in the lives of their loved ones again.
At the risk of being maudlin, let me state the obvious: the vaccine--when it comes (and it will)-- will be limited in quantity, ineffective to some, and unavailable to others. The vast majority of us won’t contribute any brain power to the solution. We don’t have the knowledge or the assets to hasten the antidote’s arrival by a single second. We are helpless in this fight.
So. . . what can we do?
We can help each other.
The mask you see at the top of this article was sewn by my sister Cindy just yesterday. Her local hospital system in northwest Pennsylvania is running low on surgical masks. They put out an SOS on social media, asking people who know how to sew to consider making reusable fabric masks into which a filter can be inserted.
Cindy hopes to complete 31 by the end of today (March 24th.) No, her 31 won’t solve the hospital’s shortage. And, no, she isn’t getting paid for her work--unless you consider the great satisfaction she has from knowing that she did what she could to help. That’s worth more than an hourly wage to her, and it should be to all of us. (Compare that to the Tennessee man who “donated” 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer only after the New York Times reported about his stash and Amazon suspended his seller's account.)
We can stop adding to the clamor of dissent that is social media.
It’s often unsocial media, isn’t it? Everybody and his brother, or her sister, or their mother (uncle, great-aunt or second cousin) has a gripe about someone else and FEELS COMPELLED to share it with the world. Often they use language that’s unkind. Sometimes it’s downright vulgar. Frequently it contains only a tiny morsel of truth.
Whatever happened to civility? When did it become acceptable to vent our spleen over every little injustice? (I’m stepping down, and shoving my soapbox under my desk, now.)
We can be thankful!
We can pray daily.
We can ask God to heal the sick, to protect those exposed to COVID-19, and to guide our president and other leaders around the world. No person or country has faced this exact foe before. Everyone is floundering, trying to gain solid footing on a path that’s shifting.
Only God sees the end from the beginning. Let's pray that these hard times will make us trust God more, because we realize we don't have the answers, that we really need His guidance.
We can savor every opportunity to enjoy “ordinary moments.”
We just had a lovely visit from our son, Ethan, and his family who live 450 miles from us. They planned the trip months ago, around a concert they planned to attend. The concert was cancelled, but--thankfully--they came anyway.
Restaurants here are closed except for takeout. The zoo is closed. So are museums, and all branches of the local library. We aren’t required to be indoors, but there isn’t much happening. I wondered how we would entertain their 2 busy girls.
What happened was extraordinary . . . in an ordinary way. Our collection of thrift store toys “for the grandkids” was a treasure trove. The girls played with blocks and Styrofoam letters. They colored. They watched a few Disney movies. We all trekked outside several times to feed the chickens and gather eggs. We stopped to peek at the peeps. The artists among us drew chalk rainbows and smiley faces on the driveway.
The real attraction, though, was the fleet of toddler-sized riding vehicles we keep tucked away for “when the grandkids come.” I have no idea how many trips the girls made up and down the driveway, but I know this--they had a ball! So did their mom and dad, and so did Grandfather and Grammie. We laughed, snagged runaway vehicles before catastrophe struck, and even captured a 3-car crash on video. Thankfully, only 1 driver was injured (a small scrape to an elbow) and all of the vehicles survived to race again.
At night after the girls were in bed, the 4 of us played “Ticket to Ride,” which is--ironically--a travel game.
The visit was notable for some things we didn’t do. We didn’t:
In the opening lines of A Tail of Two Cities, Charles Dickens captures the expanse of human emotions and responses that erupt when nations face turbulent times. I'm convinced that those lines apply to us right now. How well we fare as a nation dealing with COVID-19 won't be only a matter of medical care--and a 2-year supply of toilet paper. If nothing else, COVID-19 should teach us that ordinary moments are often extraordinary, that thankfulness and helping others yield intrinsic rewards, and that tomorrow isn't guaranteed.
I'm Sandy . . .
I write crisp, accurate, engaging copy and content marketing for my B2B and B2C clients. My favorite topics are vacation rentals, urban homesteading, sustainability, and inspirational posts.