FARGO — Last spring, I asked my pool of Facebook friends what they'd learned so far from COVID-19. At the time, the nation was in lockdown, people were busily stitching up masks to donate and we hadn't yet fully reached the "hate" and "blame" phases of our grieving process.
Back then, their answers revealed a mix of hope, faith and a return to the basics. We still sort of felt like it would be a painful but a temporary development — that if we all hunkered down and did what we were told, we'd pull through this thing together.
Nearly a year has passed and so much has happened. We've lost loved ones, jobs and more to the virus, but we haven't lost COVID. Not even close. So I again asked my Facebook neighborhood what they've learned from the pandemic.
This time, their answers lacked the plucky optimism from the first time around. Job loss, attempted coups, serious illness and surging infection rates will do that. We are like children who have spent a year in an abusive home: hardened, hurt, exhausted and, deep down, terrified what will happen next.
If there's any good news, it's that some of the (lightly edited for grammar) responses I'm sharing below still showed gratitude, resiliency and hope. That in itself is a testament to the strength of the human spirit.
- RM: “The pandemic has taught me that every dreadful stereotype of every disaster movie was true: A pending disaster is imminent, a scientist tries to warn us, a large portion of the population — especially the politicians — pooh-pooh the scientist for economic reasons and, sure enough, the disaster happens just as the scientist said it would. However it is far more frightening to witness a worldwide disaster without the benefit of popcorn and trailers of upcoming features. "
AP: "About 30% of high school graduates are not able to apply scientific principles or practices. And due to that deficiency and lack of control, it engenders in those with the deficiency (for) belief (to) become dominant. Belief becomes the answerer to all questions and … dominant motivation to action. Because peddlers of belief are their own proof, not the proof independent of individual promotion, we have a growing number of people believing fiction, lies, preposterous theories and delusions."
MK: "That unless death is in the form of a plane smashing into a building, it doesn’t have as much value. Not exact, but my 13-year-old says the amount of COVID deaths in the U.S. equals 133 9/11s."
CNE: "Politics and religion don’t mix. However, politics and public health should never mix."
On masks and precautions:
- SWR: "That children respond by how it is presented to them. My 6-year-old granddaughter has accepted COVID restrictions better than a good majority of adults in North Dakota."
- TP: "I’ve been surprised how selfish and frankly stupid so many people are. The fact that masks became a big issue is really, if you think about it, deeply weird."
CM: "COVID damage to my body (affected my) ability to walk and cognitive functioning. I remember Christmas shopping for my kids in a wheelchair and having a man stand right next to me and proudly not wear a mask. I wanted to scream at him that COVID put me in a wheelchair at 41 years old and he was too proud to wear a mask."
CH: "That your rights can be squashed by a few."
KRW: "I realized that fear tries to convince me that loneliness is necessary to protect my life, but I need my family and friends to make life worth living. So I wear a mask when I need to, but I’m willing to take the risk to see (and hug) my loved ones."
On family and perspective:
- DW: "I’ve learned to be more grateful — my family is healthy, we have jobs and a home, warm clothes and good food to eat. That’s enough."
JSW: "We eat dinner as a family at the table more. I will never take for granted large gatherings of friends and family, window shopping, our grocery stores being fully stocked, being able to hop in my car and go home to North Dakota to see an ill family member and go to a funeral."
DRW: "Spring will be the best spring ever. I am weirdly excited about weeding, trimming, planting and watering … things I mostly saw as a chore. Gratitude is good."
LW: "The list of things I can do without is enormous. The list of people I can do without is infinitesimal."
SMD: "Hugging is SO underrated, health care workers finally get the kudos they deserve, family get-togethers aren’t often enough, kindness is contagious … we as humans need each other, not things."
TH: "I am so grateful for a strong marriage and a spouse with a sense of humor."
- BE: "I’ve lost my mother to COVID, been my son’s near-constant caregiver, then recently spent a week with him in the hospital with double pneumonia and a blood clot. My perspective is flipped on its head from last year. I was all about thinking about the things we were missing out on. Now I’m focused on getting through each day as it comes."
TSB: "How resilient and amazing my kids are. I’ve learned to roll with the punches in a way that I never wanted to be able to. I had to learn to be ‘Type B+’ instead of ‘Type A.’"
JP: "How damaging careless words are to the collective, especially on social media. I try to ask myself why I am sharing and if I am the best person to impart the ‘wisdom.’ I really wish more people would self-censor because … there is too much sharing and not enough listening."
MLS: "My 24-year-old daughter is homebound and on disability, and her life didn’t change. However, she had little patience for folks who whined and complained about having to stay home."
CA: "My job allows me to work very productively from home while schooling from home does not. Political beliefs in what people post to social media helps separate the friends you want to hear more from, from those you don’t. Wearing work clothes keeps weight in check. Wearing yoga pants does not. Time spent setting up your parents with a tablet is worth it should video calls become the only way to see them."
SA: "Appreciating nature and its hidden beauty when humans are quiet. The air was cleaner and it was peaceful. It provided opportunities to learn new things and explore new ideas. It strengthened spiritual beliefs in unexpected ways."
BC: "That I could care for (my Dad) and, with the help of hospice, keep my promise to him (to not) die in VA, but at home. That no (location) is safe from COVID like we thought it would be, being on a home farm. That when I saw him take his last breath — with a temperature of 105 — I smiled first, and said to him, ‘Dad, you’re now free, but we’re gonna need your help when you get there.’ That dad’s death was only the beginning."
MF: "My extroversion is strong AND also that I need more alone time than I knew."
LL: "I may not have much but I’m willing to share."
Readers can reach Tammy Swift at firstname.lastname@example.org.