Remember when, on the way to the beach (where I happen to be while writing this), you could stop at a McDonald’s and actually sit down and eat your Big Mac inside?
Or, if you needed to get out of your spouse’s hair on a weekend at home, you enjoyed the priceless privilege of dropping down to the library, going inside, and spending a couple of hours reading a book while seated at a nice little table near the window?
Or, when you ran into a friend while walking down the street, you didn’t have to strain to hear what he was trying to say behind that weird-looking black mask? And you could even shake his hand?
Wow! What luxuries! We didn’t know how good we had it back in what now seem like the good old days, though they were scarcely six months ago.
And those aforementioned minor inconveniences are nothing at all, of course, compared to, say …
n The untold suffering endured by the millions of Americans who have lived through cases of the coronavirus. Or the 200,000 or so who so far haven’t made it.
n The nightmare inflicted on millions of people on the West Coast by forest fires roaring away at a disastrous rate unknown in human memory. (But remember: There’s no such thing as global warming.)
n Evening news broadcasts filled night after night with such deeply disturbing footages of seemingly unending conflicts on the streets of America’s cities, with guns blazing away and unspeakably alarming expressions of racial and political hatred being shouted back and forth.
n A presidential campaign (and, for that matter, a presidency) provoking such heretofore unheard-of intensity that one actually hears serious debates going on about questions ranging from what happens if the incumbent loses the election but refuses to vacate the White House to whether we might be headed toward some kind of civil war.
I know, I know. These are not the kinds of scary thoughts that should occupy one during what should be a relaxing stay at the beach, but how can one help it? Besides, it’s raining. (Yuck!)
Still, let’s not leave it at that. These are trying times, for sure. But they can hardly compare to the Civil War, can they? Or the Revolutionary War. Or a couple of World Wars. Or the Great Depression. And so on. If Americans made it through them, surely we can make it through this — even if it takes till the end of not this year but the next one, as someone was grimly predicting on the news the other night.
Maybe we can ever emerge stronger than before. And if anything good can come out of this ordeal (or cluster or ordeals), perhaps it will be a deeper appreciation for the kind of normal life that we have so often taken for granted, or found boring.
Say, the gift of being able to go to church and take Communion. Or sit around the dinner table with dear friends and talk about whatever — with no masks on. Imagine that. Or sit in the middle of a huge crowd at a basketball game — with no social distancing.
Or, in my case, maybe even another semester or two of driving back and forth to Chapel Hill and getting to know the bright students in a couple of journalism classes in person, as opposed to trying to sit at home and teach them via Zoom.
And finally realizing how good we have it.
Steve Bouser is the retired editor and Opinion editor of The Pilot. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.