For one summer my family lived in a barn. It was miserably hot and the sound of rain still brings the memory of summer rainstorms like artillery on that tin roof. But what I remember most was how my family came together and forged unbreakable bonds. It was the most terrible and terrific summer of my life. Years from now, how will we all remember the spring of 2020?
When we go through difficult changes in life we often pass through the five stages of grief and loss, which are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. The stages are an oversimplification of a complex human emotion but I'll bet looking at that list you are able to place yourself somewhere along the path.
Looking back, it's easy to see Denial, Anger, and Bargaining in your personal life and the nation as a whole in response to this crisis. Many are still trudging through the Depression mud pit but a large number of people have reached the other side, washed off, and moved on to the Acceptance stage. At this point the idea is to move on as best we can, but what does the road ahead look like? Which behavioral changes are permanent and which were only short term sacrifices?
For parents, this has been the hardest school year of your life. For their kids, this may well be their favorite. They miss playing basketball, seeing their friends, and eating something other than leftovers but they will likely never forget going on walks with their family, having family church, doing a puzzle on Sunday afternoons, and playing "the floor is lava" with their usually un-fun dad. The last time this many families spent this much time together was probably during the agrarian 19th century. Spend the time wisely because your kids may never forget it.
With the newfound acceptance of working remotely, we may see a population shift out of metropolitan areas out into rural areas and scenic areas. Why risk being quarantined in a tiny apartment with one window when you could be trapped on a hundred acres 20 miles from town? We have seen plenty of people isolating on the balcony of their vacation home rather than their homely home. Maybe we will see a boom in coastal real estate as a result. Perhaps working from home will mean become so widespread that no building higher than 10 stories will be built again. Seeing kids in the background of an interview could become commonplace, which usually makes for more entertaining interviews anyway.
I believe we will move ahead with cautious optimism, motivated by courage rather than fear. Surely after the influenza outbreak of 1918-1919 there were concerns of a second, third, fourth wave of the virus but the decade that followed was one of obstreperous expansion. Those people had lived through a world war and a life changing pandemic, both far worse than anything we have experienced, and their bounce-back has been glamorized ever since as a time of cultural, intellectual, and economic evolution fueled by a desire to cherish every moment because it could well be your last. Since the depth of our pandemic wasn’t quite so cavernous I suspect our rebound will be more modest but equally entertaining. Can we bring back bowler hats please?
An incredible respect for community has developed and I hope it leads to a bright future for small businesses. With international companies looking to domesticate jobs, a new price advantage could develop for small businesses who no longer have to compete with $1/hr international labor. Maybe drive-in theaters will make a comeback, maybe quality handcrafted food and textiles will return, maybe communities will regain that character they once had when there were walls and drawbridges separating them from the outside world. Hopefully we start making more intimate connections in smaller groups rather than the mass produced nonsense that has been shoveled on us for decades from entertainment avenues. I have seen more people walking in the last month than I have in 5 years and I hope people continue to reach out to their neighbors. Even large corporations have shown a remarkably depth of character in showing compassion, forgiving debts, granting clemency, and admitting faults. Several of the insurance companies we represent have offered to give back premiums paid during the last month; whoever thought an insurance company was capable of that uncoerced? I feel like a proud parent who's child shared his candy bar.
Hard times make for costly lessons and costly lessons, invested wisely, bring rich rewards. It may still be difficult and we have obstacles left to overcome but we can use this tipping point as motivation to make positive changes. How you and your family remember this time is entirely up to you.