On the night of my son’s fifth birthday, just as I was about to place five candles in his chocolate cupcake, I received an alert on my phone. It’s a message that many of us are receiving as the coronavirus is surging in our community: our son had been exposed to two positive COVID-19 cases at school.
Happy birthday, kid: now let’s quarantine.
A wave of emotions hit me as I tried to give my husband that kind of look that let him know that something serious was happening without raising the attention of our children. I was shaken and what I thought were the routine fall colds that we deal with annually might be the coronavirus. Our doctor recommended getting tested the next morning. So much for a birthday celebration.
After my kids went to bed and I cleaned up bits of wrapping paper and finished texting the grandparents, thanking them for the gifts and updating them on our next steps after learning about our exposure to COVID-19, anger festered to the surface.
I thought of my employees at Kalispell Brewing Company who spent the entire summer harassed and threatened for following the statewide mask directive that applied to them and customers. To work in customer service means you already have thick skin and under normal times, you can easily brush off a snide comment or a cranky complaint. For our tasting room servers, they confronted an ugliness about proven health measures that made them often fearful for their own safety. It was discouraging and our leadership crew at the brewery did their best to help with morale, but the community spirit and neighborliness that small towns like ours boast seemed to be a mirage.
What I’ve witnessed is a corruption of personal freedom, twisting it into contempt and disregard for others. As a community, to survive this deadly and devastating virus, we must adhere to proven health and safety measures and offer support and encouragement, not vile threats. Freedom and responsibility are the result of sacrifice, and during a pandemic, our focus should be on what we can all do to ensure the health of all people, from our youngest who need to attend school to our oldest who are our must vulnerable, those who endured World Wars to know firsthand that our greatest strength lies in our willingness and commitment to the greater good.
Don’t let pandemic fatigue or misinformation provide you with false illusions or fall prey to the manipulation of “personal freedom” that, sadly, many elected leaders tout. We’re headed into dark hours and our neighborliness, friendliness, and devotion to our community will save the day. Personal freedom is a privilege, and it’s the result of our duty and obligation to society.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.