An Editorial by Lanie Wish
I'll be honest. I never thought this would happen - not to this extent. Yet, on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2020, it did. The governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, closed down restaurants and bars, social gatherings were limited to 25 and people were ordered to only go out for necessities, which basically means no more entertainment - no movie theaters, Broadway plays shut down, no Boston Pops concerts, no hanging out at the Greenway in Boston, stay away from playgrounds, and all the public schools are closed until at least April 6. And now today, March 23, the governor has closed all businesses that are not necessities, and we have a "stay in place" order state-wide.
I feel like the world stopped breathing. This thing we call life is just put on pause. And then we heard our new catch phrase, "social distancing," which I guess is a nice way to say "stay away from people." All of this gives new meaning to the term "March Madness".
If you're like me, you tune in to the news and social media more than usual, and check on your neighbors a little more than normal. Yes, I'm scared about what we don't know, but I'm trying my best to stay optimistic. Especially when the updates change so much every day! And sometimes that's just using my voice by writing.
It's no secret that Social Distancing really hurts restaurants, bars and hotels all over the world - we can't serve you, and you can't sit in our establishments. One thing every restaurant or bar I've ever worked in has: regulars. If they love you, they're there on a regular basis, and even when the world turns upside down, there they are - reminding you that if they're coming in for a drink or a meal, the world can't be all bad. We need them as much as they need us - it's a mutual relationship of respect. Now that those connections are shattered, it rattles an element of the normalcy that we've come accustomed to - those of us in food service understand this, and it's just as scary for us as it is for you, but we can't even do that - at least not right now. I've always been skeptical about how much technology is too much, and how much we should be relying on it, but now here we are, and it's our only means of connecting to everyone we know.
While grocery stores and pharmacies remain open, it's scary to watch stock depleting from shelves. I keep reminding myself that they will get stocked again. I take a deep breath and remind myself to take it one day at a time. It will get better. Call me crazy, but I truly believe it will. I'm choosing to stay positive, and productive. I don't think I'm the only one. For every horrible story out there about people selling a four-pack of toilet paper for $300 on eBay, there are at least 4 stories about people who go out of their way every day to help their communities.
I've developed a deep sense of gratitude for every medical worker, grocery and pharmacy employee, every janitor, and every employee who works for a local news station. We rely on them, and they are not letting us down. Some people are fortunate enough to be able to work from home, or have a job where you can practice social distancing safely. I think it's important that our children and others can see that there are other ways we can persevere. It may not be what we are used to, but we can adapt.
With the new rules in place, other workers are sent home to work, if possible. This proves especially challenging for people that are in "essential" roles that now have children home since the schools have closed, as well as day care centers. This is especially difficult for parents who relied on older family members to help care for their children, which they are unable to do now. Some jobs won't wait for people in quantine either. Some jobs may be possibly lost because they are impossible to do from home.
I am reminded of the summer of 2003, when I lived in New York City. We had a blackout for 3 days. It happened in the afternoon, in the middle of my shift at Peter's Restaurant and bar on Columbus Avenue on the upper west side. Eventually, a co-worker and I made our way home via the Queensborough bridge on foot. As we took the long walk home to our neighborhoods in Queens, people came out of their homes, and held candles out for people walking by so we could all find our way home. I believe that is such a true metaphor for what we are all trying to do for each other now.
I know we can get through this. I know we will get through this. As parents, who knows when our kids will be allowed back to school? We have to homeschool our kids (my twins are 5th graders) now, so school is now Mr. Mommy and Mrs. Daddy. I see other parents on Facebook sharing links or a post featuring educational strategies & successes. I love seeing the photos, hearing the stories and seeing the smiles on the kids' and parents' faces - it means we're adapting and making it work.
Even though we are physically apart, we are not alone. We are connecting through our stories, advice, and information. When we share our struggles and triumphs, we inspire one another to be strong - for ourselves, our significant others and our children. We need to keep doing that. We need to learn to be the light in the dark, and hold a candle out for our neighbors so we can find our way back.