I am a news junkie. My daily fix begins with a walk to the end of the driveway in the pre-dawn darkness and a rush of adrenaline when I spot that glint of the plastic wrap protecting my newspaper. The ritual continues with a fresh cup of coffee and a careful read. After breakfast, I take a three-and-a-half mile walk every other day. That is when I listen to my news podcasts from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and a few others. I try to watch the noon news and the six o’clock local news, followed by the national news.
I never saw any harm in staying up on the news. I am interested in politics, national & world affairs, crime & punishment, and human interest. Throw in some sports and weather and it’s all good—until now, that is.
I began following the COVID-19 coronavirus when it broke out in Wuhan, China last year, and watched the grim tidal wave as it bore down on America. But now that it is here, I think I am done with the news. I am declaring a personal blackout of the national news.
It’s not that I don’t care. I care deeply. I care about the people who are ill and the people who are struggling to heal them. I care about the people who are losing jobs and businesses. But there is not much I can do for them. I have a pretty good idea of how the disease is spread, how bad the symptoms can be, and what I need to do to protect myself and others. But knowing how many people died today is not useful information for me right now. As a seventy-year-old retiree, the best thing for me to do is stay home and avoid taxing a health care system that is already under stress.
I like to write, so I could write about the heroes in our community who are dealing with this terrible epidemic, but I can’t see them—and I hope I don’t need to. But there is one group of heroes I do see. I see firsthand the struggles of my wife, a media specialist (school librarian) in the Dougherty County School System, and her colleagues who are trying to serve the needs of their students.
As I write this on a Sunday afternoon—a week into the crisis—she is attending the latest of many virtual school staff meetings from our kitchen table. She and her colleagues are trying to figure out how to serve the needs of their students in a system that is not designed for distance learning. They use the computers in the classroom, but the devices are not intended to be taken home.
Teachers are worried about their kids, but they need to contend with privacy issues. I overhear them talk about posting assignments on something called Google Classroom, about how to assign passwords to the system when the students are not on the school network, and especially about the fact that many students live in homes that do not have computers or even a connection to the internet.
My wife alternates her time between hours in front of the computer and moments of sanity-preserving time in her garden. As for me, I’ll try to take my mind off the news by observing the beauty of nature around my house. I’ll write about that. I’ll document the status of the wrens that are trying to nest in my garage. I’ll enjoy the flowers that are blooming in my wife’s garden. And I’ll look forward to the sights and sounds of our new evening ritual—a walk around our neighborhood.
Today, I spotted some chalk art at the end of somebody’s driveway that lifted my spirits. It was a scripture quote from 2nd Corinthians 12: 9 that says, My Grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.
I suppose this is part of a Facebook community project called Albany Chalk Your Walk. It is a great way for us to stay connected in a time of Social Distancing—an Albany version of the Italians singing from their balconies.