Recently I overheard a young child asking her mother when school would reopen. The youngster had apparently grown tired of being home with her older and overly controlling siblings and wanted to reengage with her classmates.
After unsuccessfully trying to explain recent events to her inexperienced offspring, the sympathetic parent finally said, “Honey, we don’t know when the situation will return to normal, because... well, this just isn’t normal.”
For me, that summed it up. Nothing is as it has been, it looks like things will be chaotic for a long time, and we will just have to muddle through the madness.
Day-to-day routines at Twin Rocks specifically, and the town of Bluff generally, are, in a word, unsettled.
The trading post and café have been shuttered long enough that I feel much like the child, I am ready to get back to “normal.”
Yes, I know I complained a lot before we discovered Covid-19 was loose among us: not enough cashflow, too many hours at work, no time off, low pay, etcetera, etcetera.
I am, however, a changed man. Like an atheist in his foxhole, I have seen the light and have promised to never again protest my circumstances. At least until this viral shelling ends.
While coronavirus kits are in short supply, there is another type of testing currently happening in abundance: the testing of our character, the testing of our inner strength, and the testing of our fundamental humanity.
The recent difficulties are bringing out the best, and in some cases the worst, in us. I am convinced the legacy of these challenges, and how we manage them, will be with us far longer than the plague.
These are the times when honesty, integrity, and generosity are most needed, and when simple acts of kindness are most appreciated.
Yesterday I was reminded how such acts can change the course of your day. Because the virus infects a victim’s lungs, and frankly because it takes more creativity to fill the hours between dawn and dusk, I have been riding my bicycle up and down Highway 191 more often.
The hope is to make myself stronger in the event of infection and also stay actively engaged. This exercise has reinforced that I should have been more diligent about my conditioning over the winter and also reminded me just how important it is to be generous with each other.
Having begun my journey north that evening, I came to an extended uphill section. Shifting down to the small chainring to make peddling easier, I began spinning the crank, grinding away at the hill.
Approaching midway of the approximately mile and a half section, I noticed two thirty-something Navajo men in a big black Buick speeding south.
I have gotten in the habit of waving to travelers and truckers, so I gave these guys a grin and a nod. They proceeded about a mile further down the pavement and abruptly reversed course, eventually stopping on the shoulder about a quarter mile ahead of me.
As they pulled over, I wondered what this new development might mean. While I briefly considered abduction as a possibility, I decided that wasn’t a serious concern, since everybody knows there would be no ransom forthcoming if I were kidnapped.
I am a “no deposit, no return” kind of guy, and my wife, kids, and coworkers would never pay to get me back.
In fact, the more likely scenario would be that my captors would have to go out-of-pocket before being allowed to release me back into the general population. I would surely be a net loss for anyone snatching me.
As I got closer to the travelers, instead of threats and menacing comments, I could hear the driver and his passenger shouting encouragement. “Come on man, you can do it. You’re looking good. Keep it up buddy.”
When I came abreast of the Buick, the driver stuck out his hand, holding up a frosty bottle of Sunny Delight orange-strawberry juice.
“Here you go bro, nice job,” they cheered as I took the hand-off.
As Albert Einstein once observed, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” So, while I can’t know what motivated these commuters to support me, I imagined it was a need to express their character during these tumultuous times.
Whatever the purpose, they kept me smiling and laughing out loud the rest of my ride.
For the past few weeks, all of us in and around this small town have also been more friendly, more open, and more concerned about the welfare of our neighbors.
My being “juiced” on the highway is just one example of how we are watching out for each other.
There is a saying circulating around Bluff recently that goes something like this, “While the rest of the world goes crazy, Bluff is still insane.”
Despite the recent madness, Bluff’s residents have become insanely caring. As the young mother assured her child, the circumstances just aren’t normal, and one day we will return to school, business, church, and our other regular activities.
In the interim, we should know that our character is being tested, and the results will be remembered for a very long time.