Matt Pearl

My mind this week is on the people around me, in particular the folks who are working to serve the public during an unprecedented health crisis.

We have all seen the social media posts about nurses being heroes, and probably the counter-posts from nurses about how they’re just doing their jobs. May we all work in a respectable field long enough to have someone notice our importance to society. But for nurses, they and their fellow medical professionals are on the front lines daily.

Much of the time, their job is ‘business as usual,’ and I would guess at some times they feel the way we all feel: that things are hum-drum, possibly even a bit boring. But they must remain ready to respond, to stand in the face of the next health crisis.

For their sakes, I hope this goes away and that nothing like it comes around again for a long time. But I know if, God forbid, it pops up again in a few months, they’ll be ready to face it for another round.

Whether nurses want or expect the praise from the rest of us or not, I just didn’t think it was fit not to put some of my personal gratitude into print. As far as I know, I don’t have anyone in my family or daily acquaintance who is suffering from COVID-19. I do have a friend in New York who has been diagnosed with it, but last I heard she was doing well, thanks of course to medical professionals who have tested and treated her.

We are all tired of social distancing. We are generally ready to gather, to fellowship, to enjoy one another’s company in more traditional ways. I’m proud of us, though. With few exceptions, we are working to isolate ourselves appropriately from one another. We have braced for the worst, and in our area we have been able to avoid overwhelming our healthcare system.

I’m a schoolteacher, as many of you know, and my hopes include a regularly scheduled start to the 2020-2021 school year. Again, I have seen Facebook posts that are calling teachers heroes, and for my part I think it’s true (about other teachers: I can’t imagine that such a description would apply to me.) It’s difficult not to lose touch with students when the rules change like this, when the face-to-face conversations and guidance between teacher and kids are lost – or at least greatly reduced and converted to their digital counterparts.

As this situation progresses, the news and projections changing daily – hourly – we have seen the cream rise to the top, so to speak. We have seen excellence translated into digital healthcare, computerized school lessons and many other formats thanks in no small part to technology. I have, at times, been a pessimist regarding certain modern forms of communications and social media forums: I can’t say I’ll never take another poke at Facebook, but my lips are sealed for the time being.

Think about it like this: the same social platforms that have in the past frustrated us by allowing the ignorant opinions of of folks become public – these are the same social platforms that have allowed school children to learn, homebound employees to work and believers to worship. If technology were inherently evil or wrong, would any of those things be true? No.

And when we approach getting back to normal in the months to come, I hope we remember the lesson. Zoom or Facebook Live will never replace going to church in person, but perhaps we will remember that our sick or infirm church members can benefit from them. And a Google Meet isn;t the same as a classroom discussion, but from now on, the kid with chickenpox doesn’t have to miss our on all of the instruction time she would receive with her teacher.

If we use this experience to make our society better, then we still get the last word in the coronavirus discussion. Let’s find ways to win together after having lost so much already.

Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.