These are strange and scary times. Those of us who are older remember the threat of polio and how much it affected people, and that was long before instantaneous communication among all the corners of the world. As Rotarians, we know how difficult it has been to nearly eradicate polio, and that it will take a massive effort to effectively deal with, and rebound from, the Coronavirus outbreak.
We’ve all seen great examples of the best and worst of human nature over the past few weeks. On balance, there’s been far more good than bad, and hopefully that will continue and multiply. In thinking about what to say in this column, I found some great comments from my friend John Hankins. John lives in a rural corner of West Virginia. He spent his career managing large properties for the Boy Scouts of America, and was a friend during my working years. John is the nephew of Earl Hamner, who wrote the book that was the basis of The Waltons tv show. John’s Mom Audrey, Earl’s sister, is the surviving daughter of the Walton (really Hamner) family. John inherited his uncle’s gift of storytelling, spellbinding campfires and now a huge audience on Facebook.
Here’s how John describes what’s going on in our time: “The natural world around us is going on about its business and not taking much notice of our strange behavior. We have always been surrounded by a hostile environment where disease and pandemic are a continual threat. This virus is just one more challenge in our evolutionary development. Each new generation will be better prepared to fight off this new threat as our immune systems adapt to the change.
“When Europeans first invaded North America they found a vast population of indigenous people already living here. But these native tribes had no natural immunity to smallpox and measles and they were killed in numbers that are impossible to conceive. Now in a time of a network of world travelers who cross the globe from end to end, there is nowhere left to run.
“Stay home and sit tight. This is not a manmade plot or some kind of international conspiracy. This is mother nature at her very best and she can be merciless. We have not yet begun to see the real effects of this virus. Only then will people begin to take it seriously. By then it will be too late for some of us.”
What can I add to this? Be careful, strive to be happy. Express your appreciation to our current heroes, those who risk themselves to provide essential services from medical care to nutrition to emergency services to sanitation and to delivery. Be kind. Stay connected. And exercise your faith.