The coronavirus has stolen people’s lives and turned our world temporarily (we hope) upside down. I will not give the virus credit for one good thing. But I will give the human spirit kudos for resiliency, generosity, and creativity. Of course there are more traits that deserve praise but just focusing on these three should restore some of our confidence in human beings, which is also being eroded daily. In terms of resiliency we see people carrying on through despair with energy and spirit. People turned to gardens to express themselves and provide for their dinner tables in case the food chain got interrupted, which seemed possible (and there were actual shortages to add fuel to our fears). People learned, with varying degrees of success, to juggle working from home with raising a family and home-schooling a family, to comfort pets and enjoy their company. Dogs inspired people to get outside and walk. With restaurants, those most social of establishments in disarray due to the need for social distancing, people got back into their kitchens and cooked again. Some people got really homestead about it and baked bread, canned the vegetables they grew in their gardens and filled their homes with fresh-cut flowers. Others turned outward and found their favorite take-out or delivery sites for food and every other product they needed, which helped the economy stay afloat.
However, what happened with the internet was far more revolutionary. All those meetings on Zoom and similar sites began, for many, as awkward ways to do business or communicate, but the sites got better and people got better. I have seen people do the most amazing things on zoom-types of posts. Musicians have made use of zoom to play together while apart and have treated us to some very satisfying musical moments. Dancers have followed suit. News channels have conquered the art of broadcasting reports that seem similar to what they presented when they could all meet in one place. Perhaps this was easiest for broadcasters that were already used to including remote reporting along with their in-person interviews. Nurses and doctors have captured our admiration as the virus has held sway in America, as have our postal workers, our retail workers, our firemen and our police departments, and our local and state governments, all the volunteers who man food banks and food distributions, but reporters have also put themselves in harm’s way and, perhaps, have not attracted enough of our praise for keeping us informed.
Working-from-home and homes-schooling seem to be areas that receive positive reviews but also complaints. Some companies may miss the community spirit of all working together in one place for a common mission, they miss the socializing, they miss the gossip and the interesting interplay between coworkers. The company’s short comings in terms of leadership, organization, team compatibility may become problematic and more obvious. In terms of distance learning there are many problems. Classroom teachers spend years developing successful lessons and materials for use in face-to-face teaching but have not needed to spend time developing skills for teaching online. Not all children have access to broadband or computers. They must rely on workbooks and parents. Distance learning, most likely, has a long way to go to be truly effective and teachers are hoping they don’t have to rely on it for too long, so the incentive to excel online is missing.
That Democratic National Convention that was held last week was sort of like a final exam on what we have learned about online communication during a coronavirus. Someone, or many someone’s, spent hours, days, nights putting those four evenings together and what those teams managed to accomplish offered backup to our belief in the competence that a Democratic ticket would bring to our federal government. Every day there is an article in a newspaper bemoaning the divisions that will show up when the Democrats actually begin governing. That very well-choreographed Convention has given me plenty of hope that the Dems and their big tent will be able to govern just fine. The presentations not only gave us the content the party wished to convey; they represented the spirit the party wished to convey. At the very least it appears that something as terrible as this pandemic has resulted in progress from unexpected directions that will serve us well in the future.