Unprecedented

That is the word that I keep hearing and reading: unprecedented. We all knew there was a possibility that something like this could happen, but we hoped it wouldn’t. Now we are forced to cope with a new set of rules.

At first, I thought everyone was getting just a little too excited. I’ve been a teacher for most of my adult life. I’ve seen the annual outbreaks of the flu, and I have fought off more colds than I can count. I even took a weekend trip to the Seattle area just nine days ago to see my elderly mother. I was using the usual precautions like frequent washing and hand sanitizer, but I didn’t think the virus was a big deal. The fact that I have pretty much been on a news blackout for two years may have something to do with my temporary denial or disbelief.

Then things started to progress last week. We saw the governor shut down schools in the three counties surrounding Seattle. When that happened, I felt for my friends and former colleagues. I was grateful to be up here in the northeastern corner of Washington where still, even today, no cases have been reported.

Last Thursday, it got real. The thing that struck me was the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament. Man, I have grown to love March Madness! It is a highlight for my son, a Gonzaga grad, and me. When the kids at school broke the news to me, I knew this was serious stuff. I felt a heaviness overcome me. How soon would schools be closed statewide?

The announcement came the next day, not long before school was out. At first, we thought school would be open today, March 16, but over the weekend, our leadership decided against it. That’s it. We don’t know when we will see our students again. I have to hand it to our governor, though. He is stepping up and taking the right precautions. (And yes, my news blackout is over.)

Things seem to evolve by the hour. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Most people appear to be taking it seriously and practicing social distancing. But weren’t we already doing that? I mean, think of what smartphones have done to people socially. They have distanced us in so many ways. People are feeling more stressed and isolated because of our use of technology.

My hope is that when this all settles down, and we adjust to our new normal, we will find a new appreciation for each other. Will we cherish face-to-face interactions? Will we visit in person more often? Will we call more frequently rather than text and use social media to communicate?

We often say things happen for a reason. We all have something to learn from this experience. We are all going to grow in some way. And hopefully, we are all going to take care of each other just a little more.

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