*in Northwest Arkansas
The year was 2020. The day was Friday the thirteenth...of March. Little did we know that would be the beginning of a strange new world.
I could say the week started out like any other week but it didn't. The Saturday before, my husband and I had returned from celebrating our fifteen year anniversary on a five day cruise. He was pretty insistent that we go in March rather than wait until closer to our anniversary, which falls at the end of April. Things were a little strange leading up to the cruise. There was a lot of hype circling about a new disease called "Coronavirus". It started in China and began spreading to other parts of the world. There had been reports of a cruise ship being stuck at sea because passengers had been diagnosed with the virus. I remember some people joking around about us going on a cruise and some people were insistent that we should cancel.
While on the cruise, we did something that we don't normally do- we watched the news. Fear. Panic. Anger. "Facts" that didn't quite line up. It's no wonder why people were so anxious. We returned from our trip and started back to our normal routine. But there wasn't much normal about it. The "c" word was quite taboo by the time we got back so there wasn't much that we shared on social media about where we spent our vacation.
And I certainly couldn't share much when I returned to work, because just the word "cruise" put some people on edge. (I even had a customer rant to me about how stupid people were that decided to go on cruises having no idea that she was talking with someone who had just been on one a week before.) So, rather than share much, I focused on work which seemed to be unusually busy. Around Wednesday we began seeing crowds bigger than we'd had during the holidays. People were filling their carts with everything. On Thursday, items like toilet paper, bottled water, rice, and meats were wiped clear off the shelves. I had never seen the shelves so bare. And it wasn't just the store I worked at or shopped at it was all the stores in the area.
Then Friday the 13th hit. The school sent home these Alternate Methods of Instruction (AMI) packets- just in case. But later that afternoon confirmed that the kids would need to stay home from school for the week and start the packets on Monday. At first there were lots of funny memes circulating about homeschooling and some requests to pray that parents keep their sanity. It was just for the next two weeks and kids would go back to school after spring break.
But as the days went by it was clear that things might not return to the way they were. Restaurants shut down dining and switched to carry-out and delivery only- some closed altogether. Movie theaters closed, bowling alleys closed, parks were shut down. Companies like Walmart, Tyson, and J.B. Hunt said employees would be required to work from home. They announced that school wouldn't resume after spring break as originally planned, it would instead resume on April 20. Then later, it was announced that school would not resume at all this year. A.M.I. learning packets would be how students finished out the school year. No Easter egg hunts, no more school parties, no graduations. Churches began meeting via Zoom, Facebook live, drive-up services. Social distancing and '6 feet apart' were added to our vocabulary. Masks and gloves became every day attire.
The future always provides a perspective that the past and present don't.
Three days before March 13th, I recorded a video about staying calm and not allowing fear to take over. Here we are, a month later...
I still feel the same way today, even with all the new "COVID-19" prevention measures that sometimes feel a little weird, or scary, I still believe that we need to stay calm and keep fear from taking over. But there are other things that have become relevant to this strange new "norm". Things like not forgetting what makes us human.
Yesterday, I took the boys to the "drive-thru" lunch pick-up at the school. The elementary teachers lined their cars in the grass along the pick up and sat in lawn chairs behind their cars with signs and megaphones saying hi to their students as they drove by to pick up lunch. As we were leaving my eyes welled up with tears. The teachers were loving on and connecting with their students in a creative way to show them that they still cared. When we pulled out of the parking lot, my kindergartner, Solomon cried, "I just want to go back to school!"
Even in this crazy new world we live in don't forget what makes us human. Send love to others. Smile. Encourage. From the smallest person to the oldest person we're all going through experiencing this and processing it in different ways.
Be the change...spread compassion.
Nicole Donoho, owner of Teddyfly LLC, enjoys writing stories for all ages. She currently lives in Northwest Arkansas where she takes in the beauty of the Natural State with her husband, Jacob, and their three sons-Elijah, Josiah, and Solomon.