The coronavirus has been a mixed bag of good and bad. As a reporter, I have been digging into this pandemic as it affects local people. While the national perspective is important to know, the real touch points are how our neighbors and friends are dealing with hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Like others, I have been to the grocery store a couple times in the past week. I could not believe the barren shelves with no toilet paper. I sympathized with other shoppers at the missing item. It was just an unbelievable moment. While I missed seeing people push carts laden with packages of toilet paper, I have heard it from many. The other thing I’m surprised to see is buying up all the red meat.

My parents, who are in their 70s, went to a couple stores on Monday and noticed eggs, flour and sugar also are either gone or in short supply.

It’s a bit mind-boggling that we have experienced this sort of hoarding.

A wise person said that perhaps buying up these necessities for an extended quarantine is one of the few things that we can all control. OK, I will give that a little consideration. It’s reminiscent of a predicted snowstorm as people rush to get milk, bread and those other essentials.

While our snowstorms don’t last for two weeks in Missouri, I am doubtful that the coronavirus will stretch the entire year or at least the six or seven months worth of toilet paper many people have on hand.

Then there is the phrase, “social distancing.” To think, about seven days ago, I had no idea what that meant. Our vocabulary has been broadened.

Conversely, I have seen positivity too. There have been people stocking up the little food pantries around the communities. I have even seen extra books being put out for all sorts of ages in those little neighborhood libraries. Others have made an effort to text or call elderly neighbors and parents.

My first roommate in college and her husband are both teachers in Baltimore, Maryland. He offered advice to parents who are home with kids, including what might happen after spring break turns into an extended home stay.

His suggestions included getting those healthy kids to prepare simple meals for people who are sick in the house.

“Learn how to clean. Call or email neighbors over the age of 60 and others in the high-risk category and offer to walk their dogs, do spring yard work, or wash their cars. Take time to color pictures, read stories, and play simple board games with younger siblings. Take a walk around the neighborhood and collect litter. Clean your room and do all the other chores you avoid just to take things off the mind of your parents in this stressful time.”

His last suggestion was my favorite: “Be creative with other ideas and come back to school ready to share how you learned to be a better human being this semester.”

Even if you’re young and healthy, it’s up to all of us to do our part and protect others, especially the elderly and immunocompromised.

Remember, if you are at home with the family, be nice to each other. People can get on each other’s nerves but no one wants to hear a sad story on the news after a family fight goes bad.

I have faith for the now and faith for the future. It’s time to pull together. After all, while the coronavirus is contagious, hopefully we all remember kindness and optimism can be contagious too.

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