I heard it once said the English were not as demonstrative as other cultures. At the time I wondered if it was the result of the great plagues that were endured there and great loss of life.
I was reminded of that thought with what we are experiencing today with the COVID-19 pandemic and what will change for us in the future.
I thought of how life has changed in my lifetime following pivotal events and tragedies. My first memory of one such event was the Tylenol scare. The Chicago Tylenol scare were a series of deaths resulting from package tampering and replacing product with poison. Following this event was a sweeping change of how seals were incorporated into product packaging. To the post Tylenol population, it’s a non-issue. However, there is a little memory that resurfaces when I open my bottle of ibuprofen that now has a cover, a seal, and the familiar cotton ball. There are many brands and products that were unaffected by the tampering, yet precautions were put in place to relieve worry and worse case scenarios.
The most significant event and tragedy in my life, as with many my age, was 9/11 when four commercial airliners were hijacked and crashed purposely in an act of terrorism. A short month later the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was established forever changing the way we would travel across the globe. No longer would you be able to walk to a gate to send off or greet your returning travelers. A flight now requires extra time to check in and make your way through the long lines of security checks. This year we will now need a special identification license or passport with which to travel. It’s the “new normal” as they say.
The “new normal” is being said quite often these days as the result of precautions to stay safe from the COVID-19 pandemic. The new normal is one of many phrases we have added to the popular lexicon as with the phrases “non-essential”, “social distancing”, and “flattening the curve”.
So, what happens next? What will change for this generation either briefly or permanently? Will we no longer greet people with handshakes? Or will the loss of social contact cause us to embrace even stronger and longer? Will we reach for a face mask at the very onset of a sniffle; or “fight it off” because any common head cold will be “child’s play” compared to what we lived through?
As I sit here in semi-confinement, wearing my mask outside as I make basic errands and wondering if the person next to me without a mask is giving me germs, I want to break free from all of it. I want to go outside as if the world was just scrubbed clean and look into the eyes of every person I see with gratitude and kindness. I have missed people, people I know—and those I have yet to know. I have never been demonstrative (it must be from my English roots), but I would like to welcome embraces and have mine be welcomed back.
I don’t know what the “new normal” will be, but I hope it is nice. God bless and stay safe!