It’s been a horrible year full of surprises and plot twists on the world stage. Late last year, COVID-19 made its first appearance, and by February, it had swept around the globe, and health officials were panicking. We learned about masks and social distancing, and those of us who could worked from home, and those of us who couldn’t washed our hands really well and hoped for the best.
The disease brought a lot of people to a standstill, and in that quiet time of reflection, a lot of things happened. I think a lot of the unrest in the US can be traced to people having time to do something about the injustices that have plagued our country for centuries (see my review of The Garies and Their Friends to see how much hasn’t changed since the 1850s for free Blacks).
Unrest brought about reaction from people who had a lot of time on their hands to think and plan, and then came the election, which still isn’t settled as a done deal in every American’s mind.
Does it help to think that the world has been through similar circumstances before, and managed to get through the times of trouble and even thrive again? I think it does. During the pandemic of 1918, we saw a lot of the same scenarios play out – masks, mask-deniers; the
closure of schools, bars and theaters; the premature opening of such institutions; needing to stay away from people, wanting to gather.
Back in 1918, Thanksgiving was cancelled, as you can see from this newspaper article. At least this year, we’ve got computer apps that can let us see loved ones and enjoy some time together. When influenza started rolling across the country, it was already October, and the end of WWI was coming soon on Nov. 11. The nation had been suffering war shortages of meat, butter and other luxuries, so they didn’t have as much as we do.
An article in the Nov. 28, 1918 Omaha World-Herald has this to say about Thanksgiving in a pandemic:
Simpler dinners, with more attention to the spirit of the day, will result since the war is over and the safety of the boys in service is assured, in the opinion of ministers who will preach Thanksgiving sermons. The sermons will deal with the coming of peace and the need of reconstruction to follow.via University of Michigan, Influenza Encyclopedia
I think that line about “more attention to the spirit of the day” is what we all need right now. In many ways, I’ve had a year to be grateful for. I quit my
job before the pandemic hit my area, and I spent a lot of time sleeping, meditating, doing exercise in the garden and lawn, and taking care of animals. Like a lot of people in 2020, my pets have really helped me through the worry and stress. And my husband, mother-in-law and I have all been making friends with the farm cats that suddenly came out of the woodwork this summer. I feel better, physically and emotionally, than I have in years.
And of course, I’m very grateful to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It seems like every week now, there’s a new announcement of a treatment for COVID-19 (fluvoxamine) or progress on a vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-Uni AstraZeneca,
Gamaleya ((Sputnik V)) according to this BBC web article.)
None of it’s over, but it will be. We just have to do our best to stay safe and healthy, and I expect we’re going to see some Roaring 20s again as the economy opens back up and people celebrate their gratitude for making it through. Take heart, and do what you can.
Even though today’s pandemic so closely parallels that of 1918, I think most people don’t actually know that. Having that history behind us—you’d think we’d have learned. But for so many, no.
Like you, I’m grateful—to be alive, to have my health, a safe place to live, friends. It’s been a crazy year, and I worry for all those who don’t have as much as I do. I guess we just do what we can and hope for the best.
I’m sure for the scientists, it’s very, very different, but for us laypeople? Wash hands, wear masks, keep social distance, shut down when the numbers get too high, follow quarantine procedures. 100-year-old technology.
Which may be part of the problem. I think the last major nation-wide pandemic (that got out of control) in the US was polio, and that was when my parents were quite young. People younger than them haven’t experienced closing public facilities. This whole pandemic seems like something out of a movie.
We are lucky to have things to be grateful for. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all of the vaccines being developed are safe and easy to manufacture and distribute, and that people who are more privileged can make sure those who don’t have as much have a chance at getting a safe and effective vaccine.