One afternoon last week when I bundled my kids to go outside and enjoy the sunshine, a friendly message on the sidewalk greeted us as we bounded down the steps. Scrawled in bright blue and red chalk was “Hi” and a giant red heart punctuated the message. My son and I were all smiles when we saw it. While in the throes of a pandemic unseen in a generation, our daily lives have turned upside down in a strong effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, I am finding that physical distance is actually pulling us closer.
I cannot hug my mother and grandmother, who live near us. I cannot send my son to his beloved preschool where he can play with friends, sing songs with his teachers. I cannot open my taproom to business. Amid these frightening “cannots” lies hope. I know that my actions have a direct impact on this pandemic. I know that my actions can save lives. Physical distance, school and business closures do not come without great uncertainty and risk. Yet the greater risk is the lives of millions of Americans.
I can take inspiration from the thousands of newly formed community leaders, likely many folks who wouldn’t have previously identified themselves as leaders. There are pastors who’ve closed their church doors before any government mandate to protect their congregation. Business owners who do not know if they can weather this daunting time but value the lives of their employee’s and find creative ways to make payroll, adapting services and work schedules. Neighbors who help shuttle food and groceries to the most vulnerable population. Friends who are staying home for their friends who work in the medical field who cannot stay home. Crafters who are sewing masks for hospitals in short supply. Teachers creating online videos to help their students feel connected and comforted during this anxious time.
What’s remarkable about all of these actions is the commitment to our collective humanity. What’s hopeful about the coronavirus is that every day Americans make a vital impact on how this virus spreads. We don’t have to be scientists or genetic researchers to stop the virus’ spread. Our everyday actions of staying home, keep physical distance, washing our hands, and other key measures can and have a critical impact. We may not be the ones in the labs experimenting with a vaccine or the doctor desperately trying to save her patient but we are the ones who can keep those patients out of the hospital and give those researchers more time to find a cure.
We are pulled closer together when we say hello to our neighbors from our porch, send letters to those in need, and support our everyday leaders, be they someone like the governor or the restaurateur who provide assistance and relief, or like my neighbor Amy who showed us, in sidewalk chalk, that we are connected and loved.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.