Remember the Pandemic of 2020?

These are words that give me hope. The days will pass, we’ll enter summer and hopefully suspend a bit of social distancing. We’ll spend time in our yards and visit with neighbors. Time will go by and eventually, maybe next year, we will breath a sigh of relief that it’s over.

I know I’m not the only one counting on that. We started out so cheerfully, hunkering down in our homes after that first desperate scramble for food and toilet paper. The internet was filled with peppy slogans and cheerful, funny memes. Oh, I miss those. There’s still a few around, but there’s also a lot more of an atmosphere, circa George Orwell’s 1984.

I remember being in the Co-op one day when a woman coughed loudly. She swung around with a desperate look on her face, and cried, ‘I have allergies! It’s just an allergic cough!’ I swear, it was like a scene from Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery, where once a year, someone is picked to be stoned.

My heart went out to this woman, and others felt the same. Even as we all edged further away from her, there were murmurs of, ‘It’s okay. Don’t worry.’ And I thought, is this what’s going to do us in? Turning on our friends and neighbors, watching out the window and then calling the police if people out walking look too close together?

I get it. We have to keep ourselves and others safe by keeping our distance. But one thing I’m certain of is that all those memes on Facebook hollering at us to Stay Home! aren’t going to make a difference. Because, guess what? We already know what to do. And those who aren’t going to listen won’t be swayed by your words. It’s like all those posts screaming at people to vaccinate their children. Most believe the science and the proof that vaccinations work. Those who don’t won’t believe you, either.

And it’s wearying. Concern for society can morph into a kind of social bullying. It leads to a lack of trust and to people feeling like they can’t count on others. And that’s simply not true. I know that this ‘pass it on’ mentality is natural. We’re part of the human herd. We want to fit in. But there comes a time when shouting instructions at other people via social media makes people (okay, me) want to turn it off. And frankly, I can’t do that. I need to see people’s funny pandemic memes, their family photos, their top ten albums, their quizzes, their desperate and hilarious stories about how much weight they’re gaining. That is the boat I want to be in. Those are the people I want to sit beside as we row through the choppy waters of this pandemic.

The news is serious. I have to listen to it. But, dear friend, I want to listen to you, too. So, please. Don’t let me down. Try a little tenderness. Because, I’ve realized that I’m in love with people. With every person I sit beside in church, or work beside at my gym class, or see at social events. Those I grew up with, and the ones I don’t know but admire from afar. Winston Churchill said that we create our own universe as we go along. Let’s decide right now to make ours the best one possible and create a little cheer in the midst of all this worry.  Now, while you think on that, I’d like you to take a little break. Just sit back and let me row this boat for a while. Because God knows, I could use the exercise.

And now, for your listening pleasure:

 

Published by Judith Anne Pettersen

Judith Pettersen is an author living in Canada. She blogs about her life in the north and the ups and downs of being a writer.

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