• Jim Donaher

Looking ahead to look back at COVID-19

What will history say about the coronavirus crisis when it's finally over?


Someday, historians will write the definitive, detailed account of the year COVID-19, the novel coronavirus erupted into a global pandemic.


When they sit down to write, they will have the numbers, or what will be accepted as the numbers, including tests, infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. They will include the dates 'when' and 'what' critical actions were taken or not taken, for good or ill. The origin of the virus, its spread pattern and other details will comprise the 'where.' The 'who' will identify the people who helped, failed, neglected and tried.


It will include detailed information as to what the virus is and what human beings and institutions did in response when they encountered it. Some 'why' and a lot of boring 'how' will be included where appropriate.


It will be left to future generations to judge the actions of those humans described in the historical record. With the facts, results, and expert analysis all in, the heroes, helpers, villains, weaklings, and failures will all be fairly clearly defined.


The challenge of writing or reporting about it now is that there is so much still unknown. It is in progress and the future of this is not at all clear.


If I'm writing about a college basketball game and the top team in the country is playing a small undistinguished school with a so-so record, I have a good feeling as to how the game might go. At halftime, with the top team ahead by 35, I can reasonably guess how the second half might go. It's going to be a bloodbath. I'll be right 99% of the time.


I'll be right because I've seen it hundreds of times. The better team usually wins. Good, competitive games result when the outcome is not clear because the teams are evenly matched. But when they're not evenly matched, a veteran spectator knows pretty well what is going to happen.


There are no veteran spectators in this COVID-19 game. There are experts in infectious diseases like the esteemed Dr. Anthony Fauci, whose knowledge and experience dwarfs that of everyone else. He has even been able to, with a whip and a chair probably, bring the President of the United States under some manner of control, at times.


But this virus is new to him too. Like the rest of us, Dr. Fauci will watch the second half without any idea how the game will turn out.


All of the uncertainty, combined with the complexity of the science and the urgency and size of the potential consequences make this one look like it's coming down to the last shot, so to speak. Make it, we win. Miss it, we lose or go to overtime.


So we are sitting in the midst of a slow-moving historical event. We have no idea how long it will last, nor are we clear on what long-term impacts it will have. It seems like it will be one of those turning-point events in life but maybe not. Maybe we will snap back to normal as we have before. Maybe it will be no big deal. Stay tuned.


In the meantime, an unexpected positive has begun to emerge. A number of people report that they are reaching out to old friends like they haven't in years.


(As I am writing this, I'm catching up via text with 3 of my friends from high school. If the second half of the article drags a little, it's because I'm laughing a lot.)


Another positive comes from Italy, which today exceeded China in COVID-19 fatalities. The people there have been locked down now for weeks. It must be incredibly stressful, but at night in some towns, people come out on their balconies. They chat at a distance with neighbors and friends. Some play music. But increasingly, people are making music. Playing instruments, singing, having huge sing-a-longs.

The town squares are empty, as are the museums and churches and trattorias, but the evening air is filled with music and conversation and laughter and gossip and tears and sighs. It's a hard time there. But it would be harder without their insistence on making good out of bad. Happy out of sad. Joy out of tears.


A similar phenomenon is playing out in cities across Europe and it is starting to catch on here now too.


Another old friend made the national news recently when he held a socially distanced, one man St. Patrick's Day Parade, complete with an Irish flag, green outfit and he was marching up and down his street. His laughter was infectious! (Sorry - I'll think of another word - how about 'conducive to joining in?')


Because of social media and other technology, we are blessed to be better able to get and stay in touch with people from our past. It is a joyful experience that is 2% commiserating about our current plight and 98% reliving happy times and funny stories from our shared past.


The blessing of our current COVID-19 situation is that so many are not working or not working as much and they are using the technology for this kind of reconnection. Reconnection they wouldn't have time for if life was proceeding normally.


All by itself, chit-chatting with old friends is fun. If commitments to get together 'when all this is over with' are fulfilled, it's even better. Regardless, it is a sign of the Lord making good out of bad during a time when encouragement is in short supply and pessimism and hopelessness threaten to take over our hearts and minds.


Regardless of how the history of this time is written, we're blessed to have each other.


In fact, if one of the outcomes is that we are a little closer and a little more caring for one another than we were before, and stay that way, that may be a major reason why it's happening. Sometimes getting pulled out of your routine enables you to pay some attention to the things that matter most.


Stay safe, stay healthy. This, too, shall pass.

God bless you!

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