As I sit with a light afghan on my lap to protect me from the chill of the air conditioner on this hot summer day, I read an article from the Washington Post that Vice President Pence said “It’s a good time to steer clear of senior citizens and to practice the kind of measures that will keep our most vulnerable safe,” I am reminded of how our lives are interwoven much like the pattern of the afghan in my lap.
COVID has taught us how fragile our lives are and how much people, activities and events are connected to one another although they may seem disparate.
Throughout the initial crisis, and even now, our senior centers have been hubs of activity. The buildings were closed for visitors but they have remained a vital resource to our communities through the pandemic. As Bob Robillard of the Coventry Resource & Senior Center said to me when the COVID shut down began “Our doors may be closed but our hearts are open!” Many seniors receive their lunch from senior centers. When the senior centers had to stop people from coming inside the building it didn’t stop the need for a nutritious meal. The senior centers recruited volunteers to deliver meals to seniors who suddenly found themselves homebound for their own safety. Individuals who found themselves with extra free time happily donated their time. Senior centers are reopening their doors, carefully, methodically, with plenty of safe guards in place and many of the “new” volunteers plan to stay on to deliver meals to individuals who aren’t comfortable leaving home yet. It’s a new normal.
Schools, childcare, and summer camp all had to reconsider whether being open was reasonable and safe. As a society, we learned how many children must rely on their school for meals. Drive through grab and go meals became available in many school parking lots. We learned, or perhaps were reminded, how much we rely on schools to keep our kids safe and occupied as we go to work.
There are roughly 20,000 individuals over the age of 65 who go to work in Rhode Island. During this crisis many adult’s work went virtual or didn’t close at all. Grandparents were pressed into service to care for grandchildren. Some grandparents had to balance their own work with caring for grandchildren. For those adults and kids who found free time on their hands they got involved in volunteering. Meals were delivered, community parks were cleaned, the yards of older neighbors were beautified.
The Payroll Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan has enabled many small businesses to ride the crashing economic wave that COVID has caused. Many small businesses changed their business model, their products, their way of life to support the community that they work in. Local grocery stores and pharmacies added home delivery service for their community members. Businesses made donations of food and supplies to community-based organizations in need. Some of our small businesses that have been around for generations, didn’t survive- heartbreaking collateral damage of a virus that knows no bounds. We learned the hard way the importance of shopping small and shopping local.
Our older adults, our younger adults, our children, and our businesses are all interwoven like the fibers of the afghan. We stay home or we stand six feet apart when we are out. We are stronger when we are woven together.