Everyone wants to go back to normal. I don’t - I’m ready to make a new normal that looks a lot less like the life we’ve all been living a bit more like what we have today (without the social distancing and the economic devastation).
I think about a story I saw shared on social media the other day – at a supermarket a woman couldn’t find her WIC card so everyone behind her helped pay for her grocery bill. I thought how nice, and then I thought 3 weeks ago those people would have been yelling at her to get out of the way. And then I think about what I’ve seen in the last few weeks – more people walking (keeping their distances), more smiles and hellos, more concern for people, cleaner air, more bikes. So, I think I’ll take a new normal.
A new normal where we keep instilling the idea that we all need to help each other, that we are all responsible for each other’s safety, health and happiness. A new normal where our children run free in our yards instead of rushing from practice to lessons to camp. A new normal where we continue to check in on our neighbors and focus on spending money in local businesses.
Imagine what would happen if after we return to “normal”, parents and caregivers could actually go to their boss and say I need to work from home tomorrow because there is doctor’s appointment, school concert, school half day that instead of losing me for a day you lose me for an hour but I can work in my house for the rest of the day. Imagine the impact that has when you can use your vacation days for actual vacation not childcare. Imagine a new normal where an employee and an employer can have a conversation about a flexible work schedule that allows people to be present in their home life and productive in their work life. All because we spent a month (or more) being productive working from home.
Imagine a new normal that acknowledges the importance of healthcare not just for each individual worker and family but for us as a community – that when people are scared to go to the doctor because they can’t afford it, we are all at risk. A new normal that doesn’t make insurance dependent upon full time employment, that finds a way to provide care in an equitable, affordable fashion.
Imagine a new normal that acknowledges that people should make living wage for a day’s work – because those making the least are the ones who were asked day in and day out to risk their own lives during a pandemic in order to ensure that we had food and medicine while we were able to shelter in place.
Imagine a new normal where we acknowledge and cordially debated the right role of government – that put preparation and infrastructure in the forefront. That invested to ensure that our 60-year-old computer systems didn’t fail, that put people to work building our roads and bridges, that invested in small businesses, in a new energy economy, in preparing children with a robust well-rounded education. A new normal where residents didn’t just ask why taxes couldn’t be less but where they asked what government was doing to keep them safe and grow the economy for their friends and neighbors.
Imagine a new normal where our children went back to school to a library full of books, science labs, music and art because we realized that what got us through this was a mixture of science and art – that music made this tolerable and art reminded us of the beauty.
Imagine a new normal where we all got our produce from local farmers, knowing now how important it is to invest in local business and to reduce the chain of possible contamination. Imagine a new normal where we made the choice to head out to our local restaurants with friends and family as part of our general routine.
While we all need to focus on staying safe now and think about the time when we are moving beyond quarantine, let’s all take a few minutes to think about what that new normal should be. Should we ask our kids which activities did you really miss? Which should we just stop so we can stop our rushing? Did you love spending time hiking locally? Maybe that should be part of your new normal. Or maybe it was cooking dinner or treats, make that part of your new normal.
Would working from home (without also teaching your child) just one day a week remove hours on the roadway, help your home life, reduce stress and make you more productive? Then let’s make that part of the new normal.
The choices we make now have the opportunity to reshape our lives – to refocus our children on the value of community and helping others, to show our kids that we can change, to be more present and invested in our community. When we return to a new normal let’s not squander the lessons we are learning today.