Just a few days ago, we were complaining about life's little annoyances. The pastor's sermon was too long. Standing in line for more than five minutes at the checkout line, or the fast food place.
Suddenly, we already miss going to church. How nice it would be to go to the store, or the restaurant with no fear. It turns out a little socializing wasn't so bad, after all.
Think back to the good old days. You know, about a month ago. We would sit around and say, “I'm bored. There's nothing to do.” But we could go anywhere we wanted. Depending on our income, recreation options were unlimited. We could go to a high school ball game, a movie, or a play. If we were able to splurge, we could drive to Dollywood or Disney World, or fly just about anywhere.
We turned on the TV: Should we watch NCAA basketball or a Braves spring training game? Better yet, which regular season Braves game would we attend? The weekend in April, or the weekend in May? Oh wait, we have a wedding that weekend in April. Or, we get to see our son graduate in May.
Now, we sit and wait. Everything is closed, called off, canceled or postponed. High school seniors who had hoped for one more dance, one more play, or to smile for the camera when they received their diploma, will likely miss those special moments. We look forward to the day when life will again be gloriously routine.
Just two weeks ago, I could brighten my co-workers' day by bringing my wife's cookies to work. She always bakes too many for the two of us, and that leaves a few dozen for my friends. Now, who can be sure that “outside food” is safe? People who would once gobble up potato salad left out for hours are now shying away from an apple unless it has been thoroughly scrubbed.
I could also surprise a friend at a nursing home with a quick visit to catch up on sports. Now I can't enter the facility due to “social distancing.” It's actually physical distancing, because we have other ways to be social. Unfortunately it cannot include eye-to-eye conversation, not for a while anyway.
Of course, no one can predict when the worst of the pandemic will be over. Weeks? Months? Years? What lessons will we learn from it? As a nation, one hopes we will learn to be better prepared in so many ways: economically, medically, and spiritually.
Neil Diamond famously sang, “Good times never seemed so good.” We were just getting used to pay raises, healthy retirement savings, and plentiful jobs. Did we take it for granted? Some of us did, absolutely. As another old radio hit raved, “Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end.”
Ironically, our current situation leaves us longing for what we cannot have. I would love nothing more than to hug our medical workers, our first responders, our laid-off and hurting retail workers, and those who are ailing. Yet, that is the absolute worst thing I could do. What an awful twist of fate. We are being deprived of what we need the most.
I've written before about hugging, and forgive me if I repeat myself. I hug my wife, of course. I hug my sons, and thankfully, they hug back. Someday I may look back on the year 2020 B.C. (Before Covid-19) as an era in which I would hug my friends and co-workers when they accomplished something, or when they just needed a little encouragement. I would even hug total strangers who said nice things about my work.
Sure, I would occasionally encounter a non-hugger, and if warned ahead of time, I would respect their space. But I was reminded more than once, “The hug you give someone may be the only one they get.” As someone who has never been in that position, I sympathize with those who are.
A hug is like your arms saying everything is going to be all right. It is like being wrapped in a warm blanket of love. Rev. Bernie Miller of Chattanooga pastors a church that encourages hugging. He told me, “A visiting senior citizen, who got a hug from one of our greeters, sent us a thank you note. She said she hadn’t been hugged since her husband died.”
As I wrote last week, this too shall pass. And when it does, I look forward to hugging anyone who will allow me to do so. Heck, at this point, even a handshake would be wonderful. We're missing out on some special moments, and we should never again take them for granted.
Stay strong, friends. Support your local businesses. Let's get through this, and make America hug again.
(David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” available on his website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405)