by Chris Thelen, 05/11/2020, Frankfort, MI
Yesterday, I caught myself saying for the first time, “That was pre-pandemic.” I was remembering something my wife and I did before the Stay-at-Home orders were put in place in early March. It was the stark reality of the dividing line between life as we knew it and the new normal we now face. It was a moment of coming to grips with the fact that we could not go back to our old life.
Pre-pandemic life meant regular trips out of town to see friends and family. We stayed in hotels, ate at restaurants and shopped in stores without a worry about infectious diseases. My wife and I went to festivals and enjoyed the tapestry of packed crowds, the sights and sounds. In my job, I regularly attended events where I freely mingled with people in crowded venues. Without a second thought, I shook hands with associates in business meetings. We did all this without face masks, gloves, plastic shields and six feet separating us.
In the pre-pandemic world we took for granted how delicately interwoven we are as a society. We did not understand how fragile our systems are for putting food on our table; how dependent we are on things like manufacturing for supplying what we need at a moments notice; how our lives depend on people dedicating their lives to the medical profession. In this pre-pandemic world our heroes looked different than they do today.
Post-pandemic, any human encounter could mean contracting a potentially deadly contagion. It brings with it the revelation of how much we depend on human interaction for daily life. The new heroes are the ones who continue their pre-pandemic jobs in a post-pandemic world — the ones who everyday face the very real danger of catching this dangerous contagion. Medical professionals, delivery people, grocery store workers, trash haulers and so many more are now the ones we recognize as providing the necessities for daily life.
Right now it seems impossible to think we could live in a post-pandemic world without a greater appreciation for the simple things in life — even life itself. As we struggle to define our new normal, I know I now have a greater appreciation for a roll of toilet paper in my bathroom; a jug of milk in my fridge; deliveries to my door; and perhaps most of all, a simple hug.
The memories are what we bring forward. I recall asking those who lived through the Great Depression what it was like. Even though decades had passed, tears would form in their eyes before they spoke. It was all they needed to say about that time in history. It told me the emotion surrounding this pandemic will remain with us for years to come.