So far, 2020 has played out like a bad movie, one that's far too dramatic. I keep thinking we've hit the climax and we're rounding third to a happy resolution, but unfortunately that hasn't happened — and likely will not happen for a while. This is going to be a long-ass movie. We might as well hunker down and get ready.
To be honest, when I first heard of the new coronavirus, I wasn't too concerned. It sounded pretty serious, but it was a disease on the other side of the world. Then in January, the first case was identified in the United States and that warranted a bit more concern. Still, it was 2,000 miles away, and I didn't consider the impact it would have.
I didn't imagine COVID-19 would find its way to every state in the country in just two months. I didn't imagine that thousands of people in this country would fall prey to this disease, that it would affect old, middle-aged, and young people, that hospitals would be overworked and scarce on resources, that cities would put residents on lockdown, or that essentially our lives would be halted and flipped upside down.
- Chernetskaya | Dreamstime.com
- In times of turmoil, we can stand together — six feet apart.
When the first case of the disease was confirmed in Shelby County, it got real for me, as I'm sure it got real for you, too. It got to the point where I could no longer ignore the fact that this outbreak is a big deal and it will change the way we live — at least for a while.
I didn't want to accept the new normal of social distancing — working from home, not going to restaurants or bars, no movies, and the hardest piece for me: no gym. But these are small sacrifices we can make as a community to reduce the spread of this illness in our city.
More than ever, now is the time to stick together and be of one accord. Though we are apart (six feet, y'all), we are in this together. Thank you to the medical professionals who have been steering the ship at local hospitals. Thank you to the grocery store clerks and the guy from Mulan who brought food to my car over the weekend. Thank you to the janitors cleaning hospitals and other public places. Thank you to the small businesses for changing up their operations to accommodate the community. Thank you to all the brave people who are on the front lines of the pandemic.
But even if we aren't the ones on the front line, we still have a role to play in stopping the spread of this virus in Memphis and keeping the city afloat. We have to support each other. Buy local. Order local food and drinks to-go. (And tip!) Check on your elderly neighbors. Stop hogging toilet paper. Be nice to the folks checking you out at the grocery store. Support local musicians, artists, and performers. If you're sick, stay home.
Elected officials also have a part to play, and I hope they will do what is right by the thousands of folks currently incarcerated in Shelby County. Jails are cesspools, and precautions need to be taken to protect the health of inmates. Because they matter. I hope that law enforcement limits the number of people it locks up over minor offenses during this time.
Finally, with people losing jobs left and right, there should be a halt on all evictions. People are living paycheck to paycheck, and without an income, they just can't afford to pay rent. That's not their fault, and they should not be punished for circumstances well-beyond their control. Leaders need to step up and fight for the most vulnerable during this time.
We have already seen that in the way organizations in the city have come forward to find alternative ways to feed Shelby County Schools kids. We know that it is possible to pull together as a community and figure out solutions to daunting problems.
This is a big city with the heart of a small town. Let's keep sticking together. No one really knows what the future will hold. These are scary times, for sure. But fear will not overcome us, and we will prevail. We must fight fear with faith. Whatever you have faith in — a higher power, science, Mother Earth — cling to it and don't be discouraged. Because one day, this bad movie will end, the credits will roll, and life will again return to normal.
Maya Smith is a Flyer staff writer.