It’s one of the worst times than anybody can remember and it’s affected the entire planet, not just our own cozy neighborhoods.
But we don’t know yet how history will look back on the coronavirus epidemic of the early part of the 21st Century. We don’t know if future school children will read about it like we read about the Black Plague of the 14th Century and the impact it had on the world.
However, we can guess how many of today’s children will remember it and there’s a good chance they’ll actually look back on it fondly. Of course, this is a terrible time for people who have lost their livelihoods or, worse, lost a loved one. But the coronavirus has forced everybody to take a step back from what has become an increasingly hectic lifestyle.
In this day and age of multi-tasking and never-stop living, the pandemic has made families closer and more dependent on each other than they probably were at this time last year or the year before that.
And that’s what many of today’s kids will remember tomorrow.
For those young people, their memories will be of Mom and Dad being home a lot more, of playing games with the family and everyone actually sitting around the dinner table together. Kids aren’t hustling off to practice for (fill in the blank) every day and being pushed and shoved in a hundred different directions.
For many, life has calmed down and, for the first time in a long time, the family has once again become the center of their universe.
It helps that, for the most part, kids are sheltered from the bad news that grown-ups see and hear about every day, just as my generation was sheltered from news about the Cuban missile crisis in the early 1960s and the real reason we crouched under our desks at school during nuclear attack drills. Of course, everyone was naïve in thinking that crouching under a desk was going to protect kids from a nuclear blast and/or fallout. But that’s what we did.
Back then, we saw our parents watch the nightly news and frown at the television as Walter Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley updated them on what was happening between us and the evil empire, the Soviet Union. We knew that something was bothering them, but we didn’t really dwell on nuclear Armageddon as we went outside to play.
In fact, sometimes kids even make bad times into good times with their innocence. Perhaps the worst natural disaster to ever hit Delaware was the infamous Storm of ’62, when a nor’easter hit the Atlantic coast and caused millions of dollars in damages. It was heartbreaking for adults who had their summer homes or businesses damaged or destroyed, but that awful storm created an incredible playground for their kids.
Our family has had a summer home in Dewey Beach since the late 1920s, and in the early 1960s Dewey was still a sleepy little beach town that most people in Delaware had never heard of. The vast majority of the cottages, including ours, weren’t much more than shacks that didn’t even have drinkable water, not to mention air conditioning or washing machines or televisions or telephones.
We spent all of our summers in that wonderful shack, and the summers of ’62 and ’63 were probably more fun than any other time in our childhoods. Because the storm wrecked so many houses, especially the ones close to the ocean, the shattered homes became our clubhouses and forts. One of those houses had so much sand piled against it that we could climb up the newly-formed hill and enter the house through an upstairs window.
It was a terrible time for grownups and a terrific time for their kids.
Nobody is going to look back at this pandemic and think it was a terrific time, but it has forced us to reevaluate our lives. For that matter, it’s made a difference in our planet’s life. Studies have shown that pollution levels around the world have dropped dramatically in the last couple of months and villagers in Tibet can see Mount Everest for the first time in decades because the smoggy haze that had hidden it has dissipated.
Plus, as all disasters seem to do, this one has brought out the good in so many people, especially those people on the front line who risk their lives daily to help others. There have been countless stories of selfless acts that warm the heart and occasionally bring a tear to the eye. As always, people are at their best when things seem the worst.
Of course, when this awful pandemic has finally been tamed, people will probably go back to their hectic, pollution-causing lifestyles, but hopefully some good will come of it. Life has administered a cruel lesson to the world and only time will tell if we’ve learned anything from it.