A lot of folks out there – present company included – have just about had enough of this shut-down, quarantine, social-distance, flatten-the-curve, stay-home stuff. And that’s the polite way of saying it.
Let’s be clear: I’m not a science denier. The decisions made by city, county, state and national leaders have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. And it doesn’t matter if you’re left, right or looney on the political spectrum, the decisions made to slow this virus have been difficult no matter who’s in charge. We’ve protected our hospitals, saved our fragile, and gotten to know our families better. Hard to find fault in that.
Without arguing statistics and models and projections, though, a lot of folks like me know it’s time to open our streets, stores and schools. It’s time to dust ourselves off, open our businesses and help our friends out of unemployment.
You can call that risky, and you’re welcome to disagree, but let me set your mind at ease.
I’m the son of a beautiful Southern woman. Actually, Mom isn’t “technically” Southern. She was raised near D.C., went to undergrad in Boston, went to grad school in Los Angeles and made her home in the Deep South. She’s the most wonderful mix of America you’ll find, and she spent far too many hours teaching her children proper manners.
Many of us had the same sort of mothers, and if we’d just mind those manners today, we’d flatten this wretched curve in no time. So if you need a refresher, follow along.
- Cover your nose when you sneeze, and say excuse me.
We all got caught spraying germs every which way when we were children, and before that gloriously violent sneeze could end, Mom was right on top of us: “Cover your nose, son. And say excuse me.” Ever wonder why we were supposed to say “Excuse me?” I never got it until today. Maybe it meant we were supposed to excuse ourselves from the room and sneeze somewhere else. Makes sense now.
- Cover your mouth when you cough.
Granted, Mom didn’t tell us to use our elbows, but she certainly knew it wasn’t polite to sling sputum all over the people around us. Makes sense now.
- Go get in bed if you’re really sick.
We thought it was punishment for trying to skip school, or maybe we needed some rest so our bodies could heal. We were wrong both times. I’m not so certain Mom wasn’t just putting us in quarantine without telling us. Remember how she’d bring us a Sprite and a bowl of soup? She wasn’t giving us special treatment. No, she didn’t want us around the rest of the family, coughing and sneezing all over their plates. Makes sense now.
- Eat your fruits and vegetables.
Apparently, this had nothing to do with the chart they showed us in elementary school – fruits, breads, protein, what have you. No, Mom was telling us we need those things to keep our immune system healthy, which a whole lot of people need to do today. Makes sense now.
- Go get a new fork from the drawer.
As kids (and some adults), we’ve all dropped silverware on the floor, and disgustingly tried to sneak it back to the table – too lazy to get a clean one. Germs? What germs? Makes sense now.
- Wash your hands, son.
Our mothers didn’t lord over us constantly, chasing children with bottles of hand sanitizer back then. But for goodness sakes, if you were remotely close to putting your hands next to your face, especially at meal time, we all washed our hands. Makes sense now.
- Look people in the eyes when you’re talking to them.
If you remember correctly, Mom told us to look people in the eyes. It was Dad who told us to give them a firm handshake. Just like always, Mom was right and Dad was wrong. Makes sense now.
- Clean your room.
For many of us, that meant making the bed, taking the dirty clothes to the laundry room and emptying the trash. For others, like me, there’d better not be dust on the dresser, and we knew to run a vacuum over the carpet. We thought these were chores, but maybe Mom didn’t want us breathing in dirt that made our lungs weak. Makes sense now.
- Don’t you get close to Grandma. You’re sick.
I suppose it didn’t matter if it was Grandma, or school friends, or the YMCA basketball team. If we weren’t feeling well, Mom didn’t want us around other people. For Grandma, we knew it was to protect her. For our friends, it didn’t really register that maybe we were protecting them, too. Makes sense now.
Maybe you weren’t raised in the same sort of God-fearing home as I was raised, but at some point in all of our lives, we’ve been encouraged to pray. We need forgiveness. We need safety. We need guidance. We desperately need healing. Makes sense now.
The impact of this global pandemic will stay with us long after government and scientists tell us we can resume our old lives. Some say those old lives will never return. When they do, maybe we all ought to take our cues from Mom.
She made a lot of sense.