Each time I screwed up bigtime, my dad asked, “OK, son, what’s the lesson learned here?”
I’d go down the usual list — not thinking straight, trying to be a big deal, getting attention, impressing others — or just being plain old stupid. Dad nodded while he slid his heavy leather belt from his britches.
Now that I’m older, and perhaps not any wiser, it’s my turn to ask the question, “What’s the lesson we’ve learned from the coronavirus pandemic?”
As for me, I have a few answers. First, I’ve learned again how important it is for us to get along and work together — to really give a damn about each other. That could be the best-learned lesson of them all in the middle of this virus madness.
Second, we are all working together hard to obey the rules. We’re staying indoors, we’re wearing masks when we must go out, and we’re trying every way we can to keep our distance from others.
Third, we’re putting other people’s lives first. Our healthcare workers and first responders are our best examples of this.
As Paul Finebaum, our favorite sports analyst, put it the other day, “We’re in a world we’ve never been in before.” So true, but we are discovering ways to stay normal and keep going. The coronavirus is cagey and clever. It comes, as poet T.S. Eliot wrote, on little cat’s feet, stealthily. Before we know it, we’re in its paws.
We older folks can remember living through the polio scare in the 1950s that crippled thousands of children and adults. That, too, was a very creepy and uncertain time. My old boss at The Columbus Ledger, Carroll Lisby, caught the polio virus as a young man and spent the rest of his life on crutches and in a wheelchair.
Like Franklin Roosevelt, Carroll woke up one morning and could not feel his legs and could not stand on his own. Also like Roosevelt, Carroll rehabbed his limp legs in the warm mountain waters at Warm Springs. There, Carroll and Franklin, like the song says, learned to “walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain and you’ll never walk alone.” That same mental walk is required of us today.
Hard to believe, after years of bickering and name-calling in politics, that this nasty, microscopic virus has brought us together again. We’re actually looking out for one another right now.
A good example of this is the positive way otherwise angry politicians in Washington are getting along, doing what’s best for the country and not their political parties. Democrats and Republicans are actually working together to lift the nation from the grips of this deadly virus.
While the virus represents the absolute worst in nature, it nonetheless has brought out the very best in us as humans. We’ve returned to our senses and to the belief that the common good is far better than the selfish bad.
Our brave medical and emergency professionals are working long, tough hours tending to the sick and fallen through this pandemic. They deserve a big pat on the back.
Some argue that we had no other choice but to work together. No, we had a choice to continue down the same old dead-end road, regardless of the virus. But we decided to lay aside hate and politics in favor of the common good.
That common good is why we follow the rule of separation and social distancing and wear masks when we’re out of the house. It’s why we avoid public gatherings, and why we run the 100-yard dash through the grocery story picking up only necessary items.
In short, we’re showing concern and respect for one another, and that’s something we have not done in years or even decades. We used to be judged on which politicians or party lines we followed. Now we’re being judged on who we are and who we help or assist.
Just a few weeks ago, things were much different. Political opposites wouldn’t even speak. Sad to say, but it’s true. That’s how far we had fallen. But that old way, as bad as it was, has given way to a heroic way of thinking and acting. We see one another now as struggling people who must depend on one other.
We’re now far more considerate. Our new belief is “do good, do no harm.” The virus has brought out the best in us. And, yes, the worst in some others, who protest confinement, wearing of masks and social distancing.
Hopefully, the time is getting near, though, for us to get businesses re-opened, to get back to baseball and sports and back to normalcy. So find a way, if you can, to laugh while danger lurks about. Laughter is a good way to shame the virus. Laughter can make us more fully human, more fully alive. And that’s a good place to be in this bad time.
Ralph Morris is a retired newspaperman who lives near Auburn. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.