“You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.”L Frank Baum The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
A friend once told me that there are just some things you should never, ever pray for. “Think about it,” she said. “If you ask God to teach you patience or courage or empathy how do you think those lessons are going to be delivered? God is going to place something in your path that is going to require those skills. It’s going to be hands-on learning, take-home exam, and definitely pass/fail.” That was enough to convince me; I sure wasn’t looking forward to any of the lab work. As it turns out you don’t even need to pray for those skills; sometimes the course work just arrives at your doorstep unbidden.
Last Spring, as I recovered from a broken ankle, I had plenty of ‘thinking time’. There’s no hiding the fact that I’m a senior citizen, but surely, I concluded, I’m much too young for my days of travel and adventure to be over. There’s still so much I want to see, taste, and do, but without my travel buddy, if I am going to see the world, I’ll probably need to be brave and learn to do it on my own.
After pondering how I could return to Scotland alone…Dave always did the driving, and I never learned to drive on the left…I decided that if I stayed in a city, I could easily travel using shank’s pony and public transport, so last Spring I booked a place in Edinburgh. I would spend the month of April in a two-bedroom flat just off the Royal Mile.
- December 25th: Christmas Eve, While we were singing carols and lighting candles, the first publicly reported collection of virus samples was taken from a patient in China suffering from pneumonia of unknown cause.
- January 8th: I was excited that the installation of my new flooring was underway while scientists in Wuhan announced the discovery of a new coronavirus. That same day South Korea identified a possible incidence of the virus coming from China.
- January 21st: The first case of what is now called COVID-19 was diagnosed in the United States.
- January 31st:, Travel to the US from China was restricted.
- February 26th:, My granddaughter arrived on her first solo trip from Burlington to Detroit. During her week-long visit deciding whether or not to roll the dice again and risk wiping out our score in a game of Farkle was our biggest concern other than wondering whether or not a snowstorm was going to keep us from getting to and from the airport safely.
- March 8th: The first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus was found in Vermont. Two days later, the first confirmed case was diagnosed in Michigan.
I canceled the flat on March 11th. There were 1,267 cases of COVID-19 in 43 states. Later that day, the first case was recorded in Scotland.
Making the decision to cancel my long-awaited and much-anticipated return to Scotland was heartbreaking. At the time, we were getting such mixed messages. It was like trying to find your way across an unknown room in the dark. Possible, but really difficult. At the time, making a prudent choice seemed unnecessary and overly cautious. After all, the planes were still flying, the numbers of cases were relatively low, and the CDC advised travelers not to cancel their flights or travel plans to the UK. I agonized about making the right choice. I really, really wanted to be in Edinburgh. Was I overreacting? Shouldn’t I just go ahead with the trip? Couldn’t I tempt fate in Scotland as well as in The States? What was the brave reaction to these facts? What was the courageous thing to do, and doesn’t courage demand action?
“Perhaps there were worse things than being afraid of the dark.”Holly Webb, Return To The Secret Garden.
President Franklin Roosevelt said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” The fear remains, but he suggests you can conquer it with action. It’s true that bravery and courage often require us “to do something,” but I am learning…we…are all learning that it also requires a great deal of daring, guts, and strength to not do something.
COVID-19 has spread to every corner of the world with great rapidity. Had I waited, my choice would have been made for me. Across the globe, millions and millions of people are making similar choices. We desperately want to have the party, see the play, take the trip, hug the grandchildren, and do a myriad of other things. We have canceled, postponed, or found creative ways to be together…while apart. We are staying hunkered down and not doing those things which only a month ago we took for granted.
“Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right”JK Rowling, Dumbledore, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”
Finding myself in a high-risk group for the coronavirus, I have chosen to isolate myself. It is strange, but when I go out for a walk, I change my route if another person approaches. I haven’t spoken to another living being face to face in over a week. I miss those squirrels that plagued me so much last winter and long for birds to light on my porch rail. It is a lonely existence that almost makes me wish I had a cat, but then there’s that whole litterbox thing. No, I guess not.
From my window, I watch as birds build nests in the large pine tree in the backyard. Around the world, people, too, are creating nests, dens, and even blanket forts in the living room; places of comfort, peace, and refuge; settling down, retreating and sheltering where they are. In this crisis, we must protect each other, the vulnerable, and those on the frontline. Remember, it is what we choose not to do that will test our courage, demonstrate our bravery and demand our strength.
Please, Stay home! Flatten the Curve!