When Smiles and Hugs Are Back

Photo by Askar Abayev on Pexels.com

I suppose that I have always secretly wanted to be a print journalist, a reporter of the news and human interest stories. In high school when I revealed this dream to one of my teachers I was promptly informed that I would never make enough money to feed and clothe myself if I followed that whim. He guided me to alternative ideas like being a nurse or a teacher. This was after all in the nineteen sixties and women were yet to be fully embraced in the workforce. 

I began college without a real plan. I declared a major of unspecified arts and sciences and took core classes hoping that along the way I would find a niche that appealed to me. In the meantime a part of me still harbored the idea of writing for a living. My role model became a student at the university named Edith Bell who was the editor for the Daily Cougar. She was an exceptional reporter and I devoured both her articles and editorials with the enthusiasm of an apprentice. I learned much just from reading her work. 

Eventually I thought to channel my love for writing into teaching English. I took countless courses in the English department, focusing more often than not on linguistics and writing. Some of my professors encouraged me to forgo the idea of being an educator and take my chances by jumping headfirst into writing as a profession. By then I had invested far too much time, energy and money into preparing for a teaching career, so I thanked them for their encouragement and pushed forward with my plan to teach young people grammar, usage, literature and the art of writing. Little did I know that I would be hired instead to be a mathematics teacher because of the many math courses I had taken for fun. 

I ended up enjoying my life as a mathematics teacher immensely and never once regretted following that route during the many decades that I parsed information about algorithms and theorems. I often believed that my writing skills actually helped me to explain the intricacies of mathematics more clearly. I knew how to use words to clarify and I understood the importance of having a clear thesis and when I needed to elaborate. 

Still it was with great joy that I began writing daily upon my retirement. It became a hobby that brought me profound joy. I realized that in some ways I still yearned to be a journalist but I felt that the ship that might have launched such a career had sailed too many years ago to make such a silly dream a reality. Nonetheless I often find myself fantasizing about stories that I would like to write, headlines that I would love to create. Of late I have been writing a news story in my head whose content I hope will one day become a reality. It’s headline is Smiles and Hugs Are Back.

The news I want to report is that the vaccine has been successful in creating enough herd immunity that the world no longer has need to worry about Covid-19. In essence we have beaten it into near extinction just as we did with smallpox and polio. We are cleared to remove our masks and show the world our smiles once again. When we see people that we love it is now okay the hug and embrace them. Our relationships are normal once again and joy and peace reign. 

In the spirit of the scientific inquiry and cooperation that it took to overcome the pandemic we humans also realized the value of our relationships and the truth of science. We began working together to save our planet by changing our wasteful and destructive ways. We more clearly understood how interconnected we all are and began serious negotiations for peaceful relationships with one another both at home and abroad. We had time in our more solitary moments to realize and truly understand the pressing needs of all people. We understood the importance of sharing our bounty and insisting on equity and justice for everyone. In witnessing so much horror we had changed and become determined to rebuild our society in far better ways than we had ever before experienced. 

Of course such a wonderful story only exists in my ever hopeful and optimistic mind. We are far from creating an earthly utopia but I see positive signs that we are beginning to move in such directions. We have grown weary of turmoil and anger. We really do long for real peace on earth even as we know how difficult it will be to achieve. Perhaps the virus has clearly demonstrated that in essence we are all the same inside. The differences that so often drive us apart have been meaningless to Covid-19. It is only when we have worked together as people without nations or borders that we have been able to stifle the horrors that plague us. 

It can be tough to report the news from day to day. All too often it is bitterly dire. I want to believe that at the very least the day is nearing when the headlines will tell of the moment when we smiled and hugged again. I would like to think that we will cherish the wonder of that feeling enough to embrace the behaviors that made it possible. We not only need to heal but we have to change our ways to stay well. It’s a challenge worth pursuing so that we can keep those smiles and hugs.  

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