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Empty School — photograph by author

By the time you read this, we will have navigated two days of ASM Virtual School. I wrote to the staff about the lessons learned. I would like to share a few with you:

  • We need to ensure there is time to get away from the computer and screen.
  • We need to ensure that classwork and schoolwork do not lock us all even further from the world.
  • We need to build in time to get out, step away, regain equilibrium and balance.
  • We need to make sure we connect and share.

But now, today, I want to look further ahead than next week and consider how we want to remember this time.

Later, when this time has passed, we’ll tell stories of grocery stores sold out and newspapers that printed a special toilet paper insert. Later, we’ll ask, “Where were you when the coronavirus came?” Some of us will remember the time as a family time of reading, games, and puzzles. Some of us will remember the anxiety and fear as numbers rose and we wondered about our loved ones far away.

We’ll remember the memes and the comics and jokes. People have always turned to humor for relief and comfort when times are hard and life is disrupted.

We may remember what we weren’t allowed to do, how our lives became smaller. We can choose to experience this as loss or we can see it in terms of social responsibility and citizenship.

Hard times have a way of putting life into perspective. They highlight our values and beliefs and test us to live up to them.

Maybe your child is asking why they can’t go to school. After all, early data shows that the young are least at risk from this virus. Why should our freedom of movement be restricted, why should our lives be disrupted? These are real questions and they deserve real and thoughtful answers.

Public health policy and law have as its core the control of the spread of infectious disease. Vaccination, treatment, and isolation are there to protect and care for populations at risk. Health is not maintained by looking the other way, hoarding resources, or building barriers. The health of the community is healthy for all. Health is the result of the applications of notions of care and service, values we hold dear.

This time, the most at risk among us are the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. The serious and unprecedented action that is being taken to mitigate against the risk, by closing the schools here in Madrid and elsewhere is an expression of care and service, of giving of our freedoms that others may be protected.

This is what we expect from the hero but today it is what we expect and need from each and every one. All of us together make a community. All of us together keep our community safe and healthy. Our decisions affect others and today even more so. Everything we can do to reduce the spread and risk of contagion is an act of social responsibility. Self-quarantine if we have symptoms, reducing travel, limiting contact with people who are at risk, following precautions and recommendations for sanitation and hygiene. These are simple but effective ways we can make a difference in the lives of others. Right now, that may very well be the difference that matters.

Writer, walker, poet, educator. Commercial fisherman, builder, donut maker, organic grower. Boston, U. City, Maine, South Africa, Madrid.

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