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Opinion

Off the beaten path

By Melissa Martin

Wow. This past week sure has been something, hasn’t it?

At times I’ve found myself wondering what kind of alternate universe we’re living in right now thanks to COVID- 19. Like many of you, I couldn’t believe the lines of people waiting out in the cold before the crack of dawn for supermarkets to open last weekend. Knowing that most of them were simply hoping to find a loaf of bread, a case of water or a pack of toilet paper was surreal. Even worse were the masks and gloves many of them were wearing once inside the store. But I think the scariest sight of all were the empty store shelves many of us found where everything from packages of chicken and ground meat to canned goods and frozen pizzas had been plentiful just days before.

In this land of plenty, we’re definitely not used to not finding everything we need every time we head out shopping, are we?

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I had to stop and pinch myself on more than one occasion just to prove to myself I hadn’t found myself in a post-apocalyptic nightmare akin to an episode of “The Walking Dead” or worse.

Unfortunately, folks, it’s not looking like this is going to end anytime soon and I think most of us are slowly coming to terms with the fact that life without churches, restaurants, shopping malls, restaurants, gyms, bars, movie theaters, schools and, in some cases, even work has suddenly become our new normal, at least for the foreseeable future. Whether we like it or not, life as we knew has been pulled out from under us and placed on an indefinite hiatus.

Given the busy lives many of us lead, suddenly slowing down has been a real shock to the system, hasn’t it? I know it has for me. While I’m treasuring the extra family time with all three of my children home under one roof for the next several months, I’m a realist who knows that living out our lives — working, schooling, eating, relaxing — in one locale without many breaks is likely to wear on all of us after a while. While I wish I had words of wisdom for you all as to how to overcome this with flying colors, this is all new to me too and I’ll be the first to admit I’m struggling with it. I think all that we can do right now is try to make the best of the situation we’ve been dealt, realizing that every moment is not going to be a walk in the park.

I also think all of us can use a little reminder to settle down, have a little patience and to stop thinking so much about ourselves. Instead, take a second or two to focus a little more on those around us. We’re all frustrated. We’re all struggling. None of this is easy. But keep in mind, there’s always someone out there who has it just a little bit worse.

Think of the elderly and the disabled. If you think we’re worried, think of how adjusting to this new world order is on those individuals whose lives are built around a routine. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen our seniors in the grocery stores in recent days walking around bewildered by the craziness. While many people have responded to the crisis at hand by hoarding supplies, members of our community, several of whom have mobility issues, are downright panicked because they haven’t been able to find the essentials they need and that’s heartbreaking to me.

For that reason, I was glad to hear that stores, such as Dollar General, have decided that all of its locations will exclusively be open to seniors the first hour of every day. I hope that other stores follow suit to give these individuals who are at the highest risk of complications from this virus the chance to get what they need and get back home.

As for the others who are suffering, including those of you who may have lost your job as a result of coronavirus, please know that my thoughts and prayers go out to all of you. For those of you who are or will battle this illness, I wish you strength and a full, speedy recovery. For those of you who have weddings, graduations, proms and other celebrations planned, my heart breaks for you. Hopefully when life resumes some semblance of normalcy, those events can go on.

For the rest of us, we need to take comfort in the fact that nothing lasts forever and even this, too, shall pass. In the meantime, please take this to heart: after all of this is over, all that really will have mattered is how we treated each other.

Be kind out there and, as always, be safe.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator and therapist. Contact her atámelissamcolumnist@gmail.com

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