After last week, I’m starting to feel a bit whiplashed.
You too? Welcome to the club.
Every so often, we hit a moment where life seems to have only two speeds: full tilt or stopped in its tracks. In fact, it’s usually both at once. Events seem to rush by us like an express train bearing down on a Hollywood victim-of-the-week … and yet we feel frozen, unable to do anything but watch as our mental phaser resets to “stun.”
They’re the moments that mark a generation. Pearl Harbor. Kennedy. The Challenger explosion. The towers falling on 9/11.
And now this one. COVID-19. The moment where “social distancing” became a virtue and closures became common, from the local school to the NBA.
Granted, it’s not a single discrete moment. Viruses aren’t that simple. (And scheduling would be a lot easier if they were!) This snowball started down the hill in January, half a world away, and Colorado is just the latest skier in its path. But it’s quite possible and maybe even a little appropriate that Friday the 13th will be the date that stands in memory here – especially if you’re a Colorado kid faced with the longest Spring Break ever and almost nowhere to go.
In a way, we’ve been here before, if not quite on this scale. It hasn’t been that long, really, since polio epidemics were common. Even a hint that another outbreak of the disease was underway would be enough to close swimming pools, to have people keeping their distance from each other at movie theaters, to do what you needed to do to diminish the risk.
And then to worry. People do. We like to think we’re in control of our lives. And when that control proves to be an illusion, it’s a blow. A hard one.
We’ve long since driven polio back in defeat, armed with effective vaccines and dedicated souls. But worry is harder to eradicate than any disease. We want security. We want to keep our loved ones safe and happy. But how do you fight something you can’t even see?
The answer in one word: Together.
That’s how we always get through our worst moments.
Wildfires. Tornados. Blizzards. Floods. We know the drill for those, don’t we? We know to stay aware, to stay ready, to gather information and then act on it. To learn what we need to do before it’s necessary, so we can act in the moment if we have to. To be prepared and not panicked.
And most of all, in all of those situations and a hundred more, we know that the first rule is to look out for our neighbors.
We see it every time, whether it’s a random driver helping free someone else’s car from a snowdrift, or an entire nation sending aid to hurricane victims. You look for where you can help and how. And when someone does the same for you, it unbunches your shoulders just a little bit.
This time, the help is a little different than shoveling snow. Some of our neighbors are more at risk from the virus than others. Some already have it. We help them out by lowering the chances for it to spread, like a firebreak in the mountains. We help them out by being their (well-washed) hands for errands they can’t go out to do.
We help however we can. Because that’s what we do.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Easy to feel like one thin reed against the tide. No one person alone is big enough to meet the moment.
But we’re not alone.
And when we meet it together, that becomes the proudest moment of all.