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Last week we saw signs of reopening. It was pretty exciting to see people getting out and about. Cautiously I ventured out with my mask and my gloves. For the most part I saw that in others, too; people were out and several were wearing their masks. Others, a lot of others, not so much. I really hope we didn’t invest all the time and sacrifice over the last nine weeks to blow it now. A few of the downtown restaurants (at least two) were packed with no social distancing, no masks, and a lot of people. I wondered how safe their families would feel when they got home.

I get that people are tired of being cooped up and that normal is something we are all craving, but the images of all those caskets in New York, and the stories of people locally who have had COVID-19 as well as the really frightening lack of a vaccine gives me pause. It is time for a cautious re-opening, not a full blown, let’s party like it’s New Year’s Eve kind of re-entry. All this work cannot have been for naught. We need to do as the guidelines suggest, move slowly and cautiously, protect ourselves, and look out for each other as much today as we did yesterday.

I am not ready to give up on the kindness that has grown out of this pandemic. For the most part, people have reached out and tried to help every way possible. From delivering groceries, to picking up medicine and dropping off hand-painted ladybugs anonymously on our lawns, people have been looking out for each other. I remember that from my childhood, and have been lucky enough to have known it as an adult through Haven House, but this was so much broader, it encompassed all of us. At least for most of us. Vulnerable populations have struggled. Overdoses are up at the hospital emergency rooms, domestic violence is up, as are reports across the state of child abuse. Those who are marginally housed have been given a reprieve through a stay on evictions, but that will end soon and a whole new onslaught of homelessness will begin.

People consistently thought of the homeless throughout all of this. When I checked on street people who were still sleeping out of doors, I found that people were dropping by with food for them. They talked of how many were bringing them hygiene articles. A street woman in New Albany, one that I had taken food to, did not want to take money from me. She spoke gratefully of how kind people had been to her through all of this, and though I couldn’t talk her into shelter, she assured me she was safe and that many were looking out for her. It is something I will never come to grips with, how someone feels safe sleeping vulnerably outside.

I watched as people, many of them, dropped off food and wished those at Catalyst Rescue Mission well, and was often greeted with “how’s the shelter?” People were genuinely concerned about the homeless and continue to be, in that the homeless needs in the area are great. Those living out of doors need access to showers and bathrooms regularly, not just during a pandemic. Hopefully as parks open up, we will see restrooms available for people to utilize, but where there is none, Port-A-Lets should be established, like the ones at Perrin Park that have a handwashing station. The Hoosier Action Pact is trying to advocate for that now and we need to support that initiative. It is humane to help those unhoused in our community.

I hope some of the lessons of this pandemic have become ingrained in all of us. Some of the more valuable of those lessons are: We are, in large part, a caring and kind community that looks out for each other; we are also a kind and caring country as has been exhibited throughout this nightmare; we are people who support each other and genuinely want to help; and we want as a society for all of us to thrive. That was the take I had from all of this.

Those who wanted to push reopening and to protest were small in numbers, outrageously out of order by carrying guns to the capitols, but largely chastised because most of us knew it was wrong. I mean, when you go to the local courthouse you are scanned in and cannot take weapons, but in several states gun toting citizens invaded their capitols armed. I was shocked and incensed. It felt good when Michigan’s governor put out the edict that those with guns in the capitol would be subject to arrest. It is one thing to carry a gun, but to brandish and threaten with it is not acceptable and wouldn’t be tolerated normally.

As we enter our new normal I hope we take some of the kindness, some of the generosity, some of the niceness we developed through all of this and move it forward. Like the soldiers I know we are!

Barbara Anderson is a local human rights activist. Contact her at barbanderson_1@yahoo.com.

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