Living into this new life ... together

Opinion: Columns

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

Jim Schwartz

One view

The coronavirus has altered life dramatically for all of us in a short time. In Illinois, as in many other states, we are required to wear masks in public indoor spaces — grocery shopping, purchasing from other stores, picking up food from a restaurant. 

Outside, we are asked to maintain 6 feet of distance from others. We are asked not to invite other people into our homes.

Still, many of us are operating according to the letter, if not the spirit, of these regulations. I see people gathering with others with whom they clearly don't live, going on "social-distancing walks" where they maintain 6 feet of distance — or maybe not quite 6 feet. I have been in my condo building's laundry room and other residents have come in without masks. I have seen people inviting friends into their homes.

I'm sure there are a variety of explanations as to why people interpret the risks and the remedies differently in this moment. First, people might not understand the reasons for the regulations. When various levels of our government contradict one another and the science about this disease is so new, it is easy for all of us to be confused. Second, people might understand the reasons, but might think those reasons don't apply to them. Young adults and teenagers, especially, might think, "Most young people who contract the virus don't get that sick. I'm not afraid." Third, people might understand the reasons and the risks, but might be getting tired of it — people want to go back to "normal."

All of these ideas resonate with me. There are many, many moments when I am confused by conflicting news or when I just want to go back to how life was before. 

But the fact is, we can't go back. We must go forward, and the way forward will involve many new habits. This is especially true because we cannot get through this crisis by "toughing it out" or "buckling down." Since we can carry the virus without showing symptoms for a long time, or maybe without ever showing significant symptoms, we must all act as if we are carriers. 

I might have COVID-19 right now. So might you. We just don't know. We must act like we have it and take action to protect those around us.

I am by no means perfect. I don't always wear a mask when I am out for a run. I have dallied in conversation with a neighbor and let myself get closer than the recommended distance. None of us is going to be perfect, and we don't need to be. But we do need to adjust our expectations and live into this new way of being. It is not what we are used to, but it is what is necessary.

Wearing your mask is not an act of fear, it is an act of hope. It says, "I believe that I can take some action to protect your health, and I should." It says, "I am willing to inconvenience myself to safeguard your life." It says, "I believe we can be better and that we are better together." 

Let's all live into this new life together.

Jim Schwartz is an Oak Park resident, an educator, and a blogger at Entwining. org.

Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

No Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Latest Comments