What Just Happened? And Where Do We Go from Here?

The year 2020 has certainly taken a most unprecedented turn. Never in my life did I envision such a profound change in life and circumstances taking place in such a short period of time. The terrors present for each of us are beyond imagining: a galloping worldwide contagion, financial instability, loss of jobs and personal freedoms, closures of schools, and the deaths of thousands of fellow humans. I think it is safe to say we have never, as a planet, felt so vulnerable, uncertain, and exposed—at least not in recent generations.

But enough about the grim nature of the headlines; we all know this already. It’s what comes next that I want to discuss here. When folks encounter this much uncertainty and fear, there seem to be two default settings: circumstances can bring out the worst in us, or they can bring out the best. For every screaming/hitting/scratching match at a grocery store, there are moments of grace where strangers and neighbors come together to help one another out. While we all must practice social distancing, we must also do all we can to (safely) draw together and encourage one another.

I am reminded of the movie Groundhog Day, in which the main character unexpectedly finds himself in a totally new circumstance that appears to offer him no freedom and no control. At first, he totally freaks out, becomes angry, and even despairs. But as time passes, he realizes that his situation still offers choices, so he uses his time to learn to speak another language, play the piano, and most importantly, become aware that being of service to his fellow humans is the most important and fulfilling thing he could do.

Thankfully, unlike those who faced the Spanish influenza, both World Wars, or the Great Depression, we have technology that enables us to communicate with friends and loved ones from the safe space of our home. We can check out digital library books, stream old movies, and watch educational webcasts or take open-source courses without risking our health or that of others. Those who practice a faith can tie into services from home and see their friends and receive comfort. When I consider these freedoms and compare them to the few comforts and freedoms our ancestors had available as they endured their crises, I am humbled and grateful. We still have so many choices.

How will we use this time at home and with family to deepen our relationships, learn beneficial skills, practice self-sufficiency and resilience, and serve one another? How can we learn to be thrifty and creative with making meals from our pantry and freezer, perhaps as a shared family adventure, and reacquaint ourselves with the family table? As we see thousands facing death, how can we become more grateful and rediscover what’s really important: the gift of life, the love and warmth of family and friends, and whatever measure of health we have. Recognizing the number of choices we have helps restore a sense of control.

I recall an article from a couple of years ago that referenced a study about how reading books—the kind we can really get lost in—serves an important emotional need. Reading actually satisfies the need for human connection and builds empathy. If ever there was a time for optimizing human connections and empathy, it’s now.

So I encourage you to wash your hands, find gratitude wherever you can, recognize your choices, and look for the positives, such as those described at CovidKind. Read together, get lost in good books together. By choosing well, we’ll get through this together, one day at a time.

Cardboard Box Adventures picture books are great for shared reading and can help parents establish a strong preliteracy foundation for their children. Check out the new CBA Catalog for a full list of award-winning picture books, chapter books, and resources for parents and educators.