It seems like several years ago now. But back at the start of this pandemic, I spoke with a good friend who seemed a bit clueless about what we were potentially in for.
He seemed to confuse my concern about the coronavirus with hysteria brought on by watching too many news reports coming out of China and Italy. He thought it was just another media hullabaloo that would dissipate over time.
When I spoke to him about our economy grinding down and the culture of social distancing upon us, he scoffed and reached for that old, perhaps tired warhorse from Ecclesiastes.
“There is nothing new under the sun,” he said, with unabashed confidence.
He might have a different perspective on things nowadays.
It’s true there’s nothing new under the sun, and this old world has seen its share of pandemics, plagues, epidemics, famines, conflicts and assorted hot messes. In my own lifetime, I can recall several instances when, in some ways, the end seemed near. (In fact, I might still have a few jugs of spring water in my house purchased around the time of the Y2K scare.)
Still, you can’t really blame my friend for having his head in the sand, or at the very least for being nonchalant, about COVID-19. Many of us had a difficult time wrapping our brains around the massive storm headed in our direction, simply because none of us had ever lived through anything like this before.
It was — and remains — a singular, surreal experience in our lifetimes that maybe only those who work in the trenches of the scientific research community and study these types of scenarios could have predicted.
Months later, I still feel pangs of anxiety and frustration when donning my Ravens face mask and walking around the supermarket, seeing everyone strolling through the aisles similarly attired and looking zombie-like. Not to kvetch too much, but it’s hard to breathe in those things, and it makes you appreciate what front-line health care workers and others endure wearing those masks every single day for hours on end.
Talking to another friend about the masks, he didn’t seem to mind the breathing challenges too much. “What really bothers me more is that those masks hide a good portion of people’s faces — the portions where you can see someone’s smile,” he said. “That really bugs me because if there was ever a time when we need to see someone smiling, it’s now.”
No disputing that. Fortunately, there’s been a reservoir of goodwill and positivity that’s helped us get through this pandemic so far. For every person who’s drawn my eye-roll when comparing themselves and their isolation to that of Anne Frank or Nelson Mandela — please, give me a break! — there’s been another individual who’s done something to lift my spirits.
Take for instance Harrison Fribush, a Krieger Schechter Day School student who’s part of the KSDS-Cardinal Shehan School joint choir that recently performed on “The View.” Harrison and a couple of friends took it upon themselves to create a video of a virtual performance of their choir singing Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week. They wanted to show their gratitude to educators who are doing their best to teach at-home students during a horribly challenging time.
In this issue of Jmore, please join us in saluting individuals like Harrison and many others who strive to help us get through this difficult period. We need them, and their smiles, like never before.
Alan Feiler, Editor-in-Chief