Finding perspective in midst of panic

By CHARLIE SMITH,

Arriving home from work Monday, I felt uneasy. How will businesses survive as people worldwide practice “social distancing” to avoid spreading the coronavirus? Will there be enough food on the shelves? How long will schools be closed? Will, or perhaps more accurately when, will the pandemic reach us here in Marion County?

You’d almost rather have a bad answer than none at all.

I must admit that I did not respond to that uncertainty in the most healthy way. I hit the pantry — hard. Exactly what was consumed in those few minutes has been forgotten to history as the packages flew open, but I do know that by the end the Doritos bag was empty. I’m using hyperbole here, of course, but the exaggeration does make a point: I was worried about the direction of our community, nation and world.

So I decided to go outside. I grabbed a sand wedge and a few golf balls and hit some pitches and half-shots in my backyard. My two daughters joined me, 6-year-old Maggie riding her bike and Laurie, almost 3, doing two of her favorite pastimes: picking wildflowers and searching for ant hills (she alerts me after finding them, and I stir up the mound, sprinkle some pesticide and then we run away dramatically, with her closing each encounter by saying, “That was a close one!”).

And I felt a little better.

Then we went inside, ate a meal together as a family. I sat down afterward and read several sections of the Wall Street Journal that I had been saving about the coronavirus. I was groping for a sense of perspective, a bigger picture view of what this health scare will ultimately mean for all of us.

And I found in those printed pages some hope. Yes, bad news really was better than ignorance. Give me the facts so I can react logically, rather than fret over the unknown. The Journal had published a 12-page special section Friday that was really great, detailing just about everything you could want to know about the coronavirus in one easily browsable package. And every day the paper has had dozens of informative pieces about every aspect of the global crisis. It was far superior to anything I’ve scrolled past online.

“There’s hope for print yet!” I thought.

You can tell I was feeling better.

Energized, I began writing this column.

So what is that big picture I was hoping to find. This, I think, is it: We in America have been far too comfortable for far too long. Our forefathers fought terrible outbreaks of yellow fever, polio, smallpox, but we developed vaccines to stop them. Like the builders of the Tower of Babel, we felt like we ourselves had made something that could stretch beyond the earth, marking ourselves as the rulers of this world.

That hubris was exposed when something beyond our control threatened our security, and we panicked. Everything seems to be shutting down around us, and we don’t know where it will end. But that’s OK. We know it will end eventually, probably by the time warm weather hits and makes the virus more difficult to spread. The economic downturn caused by the cessation of business will take longer to fix, but it will be done. Don’t ever bet against the American economy in the long-term.

And, hopefully, we will emerge from this episode wiser about the fragile nature of life and our tenuous place in the world.

I recalled my daughter picking the wildflowers, and this Scripture came to mind: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”

With those words in mind, and column complete, I laid down to bed Monday night and rested soundly.

Charlie Smith is editor and publisher of The Columbian-Progress. Reach him via email at csmith@columbianprogress.com or call (601) 736-2611.

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