This blog post originally appeared in an extremely similar form in the Johnson City Press “Community Voices” column.  I so appreciate Sam Watson, Content Editor of the Johnson City Press for allowing me to repurpose my column into this week’s blog.

All of us more than a decade or two old have watershed moments in our lives, moments we will forever remember where we were, when and why time stood still for us. Even though I was a small child when it happened, and didn’t recognize it as such a moment for years, hearing JFK had been shot was a watershed moment for me.  I remember hearing about Reagan’s attempted assassination. I know exactly where I was when I learned about Lockerbie and 9/11. I could say the same for learning of Princess Diana’s death. 

While these were all negative watershed moments, I also remember where I was when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon.  I certainly remember my high school and college graduations.    Hearing “The pathology report showed no evidence of cancer, just a fatty tumor”.  Another positive watershed moment for my family and me. While my graduations and pathology report didn’t have a societal impact, they impacted my life, as well as that of my family.

I believe the time of COVID-19 is going to be one of those watershed moments in the lives of each of us.  While I can’t remember exactly where I was when I first heard of what would eventually be known as COVID-19, I remember it was in early January.  I distinctly recollect thinking, “This is going to be a major health issue if it is not controlled immediately.”  When I penned the original column for the Johnson City Press, I had just learned – I believe it was within the hour, but I’m not certain – of the first COVID-19 death in Washington County, where I reside.  Another  watershed moment that I didn’t want to happen.

In mid-March, nearly all of the news reports struck fear. The stock market. COVID-19. Shortages of medicine, medical equipment and supplies. I talked to Vance Cheek, Sr. around the middle of March.  I hope he does not mind me telling he’s 95 years old; his voice was as hale and hearty as decades ago when he was at the helm of Home Federal. Mr. Cheek told me, “I’ve never seen anything like what we’re going through now, and I know you haven’t, either.” Indeed.

It’s important to know what’s going on in the world; the tagline of the Johnson City Press is “What the people don’t know will hurt them.” This is truer now than ever before.  I appreciate such newspapers as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today providing free email subscriptions exclusively for COVID-19 updates.  And as I update this in early June, it doesn’t look like COVID-19 news will go away anytime soon.

This pandemic will change us in many ways; you probably have your own list. I hope you will so state in the comments section of this blog. We already know some of these ways, while others are unknown. The pandemic will be the topic of study amongst social scientists for generations. How we handle this crisis, this imposed change in our lives, our ways of work, will impact the world for generations.

Other than practicing social spaciousness, perhaps the most obvious way the pandemic has affected many of us is seeing grocery shelves completely bare. Although friends warned me of this in early March, I truly thought they were exaggerating. They weren’t. I was even more surprised when I saw signs on the shelves of the grocery I usually frequent limiting customers to two loaves of bread or two packages of chicken. Thankfully, groceries now seem to have bountifully filled shelves.  I hope we never forget the vital role that farmers play in the lives of all of us, every single day, with every single bite we eat, unless we have grown our food ourselves. The limits imposed at the grocery store reminded me of stories my parents told of rationing during World War II. I wondered if we would see other items rationed.

As I was researching information for the “Today in History” column in the Johnson City Press, I saw that the Johnson City Press-Chronicle, on March 4, 1944,  carried ration dates for various products. Some of those items included meats, processed foods, sugar, shoes, stoves, and tires. I remember my father saving shoe-sized pieces of cardboard, “In case times are ever hard and I can’t get my shoes resoled or buy new shoes if I need them.”  I remember my mother using aluminum foil, then carefully washing and drying it, then using it again.  She repeated the process numerous times.  I remember my mother even taking the hem out of one of my dresses that had grown too short, and reusing the same thread to hem it again.  Both of my parents were children of the Great Depression, and I have to wonder if we will also see times that are just as bad, if not worse.

For a while during COVID-19 times, most, if not all local grocery stores, reserved the first hour they were open for people deemed to be at risk of getting COVID-19 by virtue of their age. I applaud and appreciate this, and hope it continues post-pandemic for their convenience. The pandemic will lead us to more intentionality in our shopping, and using the contents of our cupboards to create tasty and nutritious concoctions out of necessity. While I don’t know that casseroles were created during World War II, I’ve heard my mother say mixtures of certain ingredients helped food to go further. Cooking creativity will continue after the pandemic, especially for those who enjoy displaying their ingenuity in the kitchen.  If you’ve created a new favorite recipe during COVID-19., I hope you will share it in the comments.

The pandemic will forever change the way many people work. When the internet first became popular, working at home was quite the novelty. As the years transpired, working at home became more common. I don’t know of anyone who can work from home who is not taking advantage of that option currently.

I appreciate the convenience and availability of technology tools, such as Zoom. It’s been around for several years, but until the pandemic, I had never used it. Now I use it almost daily. Several similar services aid in productivity and efficiency. The pandemic has illustrated the convenience of such technology tools. We will continue to rely on them, although nothing takes the place of a face-to-face meeting. By the time the pandemic has run its course, being conversant with such tools will likely be just as important as knowing how to use a computer.

Many parents have had home-schooling thrust upon them. Some parents have discovered they love teaching; others feel teachers should have an immediate pay raise! Chelsie Dubay, an instructional designer and online course reviewer at East Tennessee State University, told me the pandemic is challenging conventional communication and learning modalities. Remote instruction impacts perceptions of online learning and communicating. Our knowledge in that field is changing rapidly. Chelsie continued our conversation by saying she’s optimistic we’ll emerge as a transformative and resilient community of learners. So am I!

It’s nice to end my thoughts on an uplifting note.  Stay well!

#JohnsonCityPress #SamWatson #pandemic #COVID-19 #watershedmoment #VanceCheekSr. #rationcards #Zoom #ChelsieDubay

Copyright by Rebecca Henderson, June 6, 2020.

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