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Doing our part to localize a global pandemic

We all have vital roles to play in the future of our communities

AP Photo A souvenir store is closed at Minnesota Twins' Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. earlier this month. (Photo by Elise Amendola)

Spend enough time fixated on the national news these days and you tend to lose all sense of hope.

With sports on the shelf and the COVID-19 pandemic looming large over all of us, I often find myself inundated with dire opinions from national talking heads, politicians and – because of the nature of the social media beast – anyone with an armchair take on the current crisis.

Sobering, I know. Not exactly what fans had in mind for late-March banter, which is typically filled with whimsical bracket talk and spring training projections.

Yet, here we are. A new – and hopefully very temporary – reality to a unique set of circumstances in 2020.

At some point late last week, I decided to reset. Not stick my head in the sand, mind you, but focus solely on what’s happening in and around our community rather than worry about places and people I simply can’t reach.

We’re all struggling with this at various levels for various reasons, and in many ways, the fight is just beginning. Dealing with the virus itself will be difficult enough. Finding some sense of normalcy and trying to keep the local economy afloat – both during and after the fire – is also going to be critical.

First and foremost, we need to take care of our own families. Again, it’s going to be a challenge, given both the unusual circumstances and marked sense of uncertainty. Think of how confused and overwhelmed you feel. Now try and see everything through the scope of a child or the prism of a senior citizen. If you can, be the calm and steady influence to help them understand.

Next, be there in times of need for your neighbors. I know the natural reaction in an emergency situation is to covet face-to-face interaction. We obviously have to find creative ways around this for the time being. Even if we may not be able to offer physical support, help is still often a call or text away. Check in occasionally.

Also, patronize local businesses. Many stores, restaurants and workers in our own backyard are going to be feeling a serious crunch in the weeks to come. A shutdown will stretch their ability to stay afloat. They don’t have the luxury of bailout money or a wealthy corporate safety net. Keep that in mind when you’re choosing what to purchase and why. It’s not always about the cheapest and most convenient alternative. Local shops are there for our schools, kids and programs when we need them most. It’s time for us to return the favor with gift-card purchases, take-out orders or other alternative methods to show how much we value them.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention all health-care workers and first responders, especially because my wife is a nurse. While most of us are asked to keep our distance and stay at home, these people are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work – like always, regardless of the circumstances. They will be dealing with the teeth of the virus under enormous levels of stress and pressure. They’re the lifeblood of our communities anyway, but in moments of danger and unpredictability, their value is never more apparent.

Our newspaper will continue to put its best foot forward in providing comprehensive local and area coverage – not just related to the disease itself, but everything else going on outside of its spectrum. I realize those items are few and far between at the moment. We’ll still do our best to keep you both informed and provide an escape if need be.

If you look past the doomsdayers and beyond those who assume this is all just a hoax, you’ll find – as usual – most of us lurking in that cavernous middle ground. Observing and reacting. Balancing the facts. Adjusting to a new normal, at least for the time being.

We’ll get through this together, because that’s what we do. We may not always be on the same page, but for the most part, we’re willing to make necessary sacrifices and do our part.

The idea is that someday down the road, our short-term inconveniences will be nothing more than a distant memory. The recovery from this period is likely to be slow and sometimes painful. It will happen, though – as long as we’re still respecting and defending both each other and the values our respective communities have to offer.

We’ll return with a better sense of perspective and optimism. We’ll see our world through a refreshed lens, and value all of the little things we’ve been taking for granted for far too long.

We’ll playfully talk sports again, laughing about a bad call or an unfair seed or a player of the year argument. That will indicate we’re back in business – with a newfound appreciation for each other’s company.

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. Contact him via email at sports@messengernews.net, or on Twitter @MessengerSports

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