Staying Apart To Come Together


I am admittedly impatient. My personality is such that I prefer taking control of situations. I don’t like to like to wait around to see what is going to happen. I want to make a difference right now, do something to make things better not just for me but for others. When things take too long I become indignant and do everything possible to fix them immediately. Suddenly I’m caught up in a worldwide flood of uncertainty along with millions of my fellow humans while a tiny virus, invisible to the naked eye, is wreaking havoc and spreading fear. I’m watching life as we have all known it being put on hold. I am forced to reach deep inside of my psyche to find patience that I don’t always have.  Already the waiting challenges my normal need of control. Enforced social distancing leaves me to my thoughts which are racing in their usual breakneck pattern that tends to occur with or without a worldwide emergency. 

I am an empath, someone who literally feels others’ pain. I worry incessantly about how events will affect the people that I love. In all honesty I’ve had a very good run of seventy one years on this earth and if I were to contract the coronavirus and leave for heaven I’d want everyone to celebrate the wonder of my life and not waste tears. It’s the young folk and the future that concern me and I understand how tough and confusing this must feel to them, and even a bit unfair. I know all too well that you don’t always get what you want and that a bit of adversity toughens the spirit. I’ve been there done that more times than I care to remember and I’ve survived quite nicely, but I would not wish what is happening on any of our youth. Nor would I ever want them to know the bitter disappointments that have impacted my own life even though it is certain that they will have their own trials.

My seasonal allergies are causing my nose to run and my throat to hurt. I have no fever but I wonder if that weight on my chest is only evidence of the anxieties that have arisen in my mind or a sign that I’ve somehow contracted the virus. I know that I am overthinking this situation, but it is the way my mind operates. I am a teacher. I am trained to plan ahead, to see a thousand different things happening all at once, to know what my students are feeling, to be able to shift gears in a nanosecond, to be ever alert and protective, to take charge when danger lurks. I’ve already turned a room in my home into a virtual classroom. I will continue to work with my grandchildren and the little group of home-schooled children to whom I teach mathematics. I will keep calm and carry on, but I think about the impact that all of this will have on the youngest among us and I know that we will have to remember them and comfort them.

There are all of those youngsters who have spent months raising livestock to show at the Houston rodeo. I have two grandchildren who do such things. I know that they arise before dawn so that they will have time to feed and care for their animals before going to school. In the evening when they are tired and have mountains homework to do they must return to the barn again to repeat the process. They shortened summer vacations and Christmas visits with relatives because the animals depended on them. They spent a fortune in feed and veterinarian bills. The experience taught them to be dependable and no price can be placed on that, but the culmination of their hard work is to show their goats and pigs and steers and get recognition and money for their efforts that they set aside into their savings accounts for college or to purchase the next animal. What will happen now?

Hopefully there will be kind souls who make things right for them, but what about the other teens who have worked hard on projects about which most people are unaware?I’m talking about someone like my grandson who has been running since he was a little tyke in elementary school who earned the record for speed in his physical education class. Now he is a junior in high school at the peak of his skill. He runs all year long, even in the heat of summer to be ready to demonstrate his prowess in the spring track season. This is his junior year. If he is to catch the notice of a university that might be willing to offer him a scholarship it needs to happen now, but there may be no now for him. He’s been consistently winning in the few competitions that have already been held but what will happen to the rest of the season?

There is my granddaughter whose Vet Tech team was almost certainly headed to the state competition. They have worked incredibly hard and getting to the finals is more than just an honor. It is a way of getting FFA scholarships which require winners to have made it to at least one state run off. She worries that the opportunity for which she and her teammates have been working may never come.

Then there is another grandson who has been staying at school until well after nine at night to practice with the indoor percussion group of his band. They were slated to perform at a national competition in Ohio and the odds were rather good that they would earn a prize. Now that trip and future performances have been canceled and their efforts are in limbo.

Two other grandsons were supposed to receive their Aggie rings from Texas A&M University on April 18. This is a grand tradition celebrating thousands of hours of studying and learning. Now the rest of the semester on campus has been suspended. All classes will resume online. They must return home to uncertainty and a way of learning that doesn’t always work well for everyone.

So it is for our young all across the nation. Stories like those of my grandchildren’s are being repeated again and again. Not just disappointment but missed opportunities are suddenly the rule when only a week or so ago their plans seemed so exciting. While these sacrifices are nothing compared to the tragedy of those who are sick and dying, we should not minimize the impact that this will have on their futures.

To make matters worse we know that an even more pressing question concerns what will happen to the millions of working people who cannot earn a living from the solitude of their homes. What will happen to the hairdressers if the clients fail to come? How will the service industry stay afloat while social distancing becomes the norm? What will happen in my city, the energy capital of the nation, if the price of oil continues to tank? When will those 401ks stop bleeding form loss? Will the Teachers’ Retirement System be able to weather the disruption? Will the economy collapse in our effort to save lives? It’s suddenly a whole new world, a mind boggling reality unlike anything we have experienced, but it would be familiar to our grandparents. We need to remember their stories and the ways that they approached life. There is wisdom in the way they lived.

I have every confidence in myself, in the young and in the people of the world. We are a resilient lot and we will endure and overcome the challenges wrought by our current state of affairs, but I do not fool myself into believing that it will be easy. We are in for some difficult times and each and everyone of us will need to be ready to help and to rethink the way we have always done things.

I’ve already witnessed some promising ideas. There are school districts that plan to offer food service pickup to the families of students who need it along with online classes. There are good people who are already offering to purchase the livestock from those kids who were literally caught off guard by the cancellation of the rodeo. Teachers are revamping their lessons. Companies are finding alternative ways of doing business. Schedules are being redone. I even heard of a way to help our local business owners by purchasing gift certificates from them online to be used when this disruption has finally blown over. The important thing is to remember to check on your neighbors, call your friends, find out what members of your family may need. Be patient. Be kind. We are in for a bumpy ride and impatient souls like me will have to learn how to wait but with efforts by most everyone I believe we will ultimately be fine. As someone has said this experiment in social distancing may be the very thing that we need to come together.