For what seems like an eternity, I've been living under Cloud COVID. You know that cloud. It has become closer and darker, changed my world, and put events into motion that will change my world further.
Right now, we're all wondering what will play out in my dad's adult foster home. Like you, I'm sad about these present and future losses. As a financially comfortable retiree, I know I have some measure of shelter. You may have less shelter than I do. And your cloud affects me. Because we are so connected.
Simple math astounds. If I live alone but touch a doorknob that four other people touched in the past few days, each of whom had touched a different doorknob that four other people had touched, and those had touched a doorknob that four others had touched, then I may have been exposed to what 64 other people were exposed to when I pulled open that door. We are so connected.
I live in Oregon, my daughter lives in Washington, D.C., and her boyfriend lives in New York City. Strangely, her boyfriend had work connections but no personal contact with two of the earliest reported victims of COVID-19 in Wuhan, Hubei, a place whose name I may or may not have heard when my daughter and her boyfriend traveled there for work and curiosity a few years ago. We are so connected.
And we are so connected. We are checking in with relatives, friends, neighbors and friends of our aging or deceased parents in a way we haven't since it became socially OK not to send Christmas cards. We are thinking about how folks without our safety net are going to make it. We are reaching into our wallets and finding other resources to help them. We are searching lab cabinets to donate supplies. We are giving new appreciation to whatever level of skill we have for survival based on depending less on purchased services. We are recognizing that we are indebted to people whose labors are producing what we had been taking for granted. We are digging into our pasts to connect ourselves with our former passions to figure out where each of us, as an individual, should go next. We are making these decisions based on more than just ourselves. Because we are so connected.
Let's remember that Cloud COVID-19 has many forms. Our connectivity means that disease, waste and thoughtlessness can percolate and amplify far and wide. As can acts of kindness. Let's take note of our gratitudes so we can embrace them again and again. And let's use our connectedness in good ways — by considerate thought and careful actions that take into account our neighbors, our parents' old friends, the people who contribute to supporting our comfortable lifestyles, and even the acquaintances of our children, continents and cultures away.
We are so connected.
Barb Lachenbruch is professor of forestry emeritus at Oregon State University.
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