Map of a Shrinking World

See this map? I’m going to explain what it means to me as someone who has a parent with a compromised immune system and works with vulnerable populations. Not to mention as someone who just generally cares about people.

It means I can’t see either of my sons for a while. Not if I want to keep others safe.

My oldest is in the southwest, so it’s less of a struggle, but if he showed up on my doorstep tonight, I wouldn’t be able to let him in. And unless he was tested, he wouldn’t be allowed in for two weeks. Provided he safely quarantined for those two weeks.

My younger son – also my youngest child – lives in New Hampshire with his mom, who also works with vulnerable populations. Normally at this time of year, I’d be traveling to get him every other Friday afternoon to visit before driving him back home on Sunday evening. So far this school year, I made it over to visit and have pizza outside with him and his mother about month ago. Now that their county is in the quarantine zone again, I don’t know when we’ll see each other face to face.

This isn’t new. From the middle of March to early July, he and I saw each other in person twice for socially distanced visits. Once things settled down this summer, he was able to spend a few weeks here. 

Could I go see him, come back, and go on with life without others being the wiser? Maybe. Probably. But the potential risk I’d bring back with me, which I’d quite likely pass on to the folks I care for, is far too great.

So I, along with my family, make the hard sacrifice, trading togetherness during uncertain times for the hope of better time spent with other during sunnier days. Just like the families of the people I care for, who could take the risk and visit their loved ones, but choose safety for the greater good over the need for immediate comfort.

This is the stuff I think about every time I hear someone wonder about trick-or-treating, Thanksgiving dinner, and getting together to open Christmas presents. Is that stuff worth the long-term cost?

I’m going to say no, because we have nearly eight months of hard proof that the short-term benefit of experiencing “normal” is far outweighed by the long-term costs. What do I mean?

Simple. This spring I heard people wonder about high school and college graduations, Memorial Day weekend, fireworks on the Fourth of July, getting back to school in the fall. And now we’re where we are, with spiking coronavirus cases, nearly a quarter of a million people dead, and this insatiable desire to just keep chugging ahead so “things can be like they used to be.”

The map is shrinking again. We’re heading for darker days than we’ve already experienced. Days unseen in generations. But instead of learning and making hard sacrifices, we’ve normalized them for the sake of comfort and “normal.”

Eventually, sacrifice won’t be optional. A heady mixture of disease, death, and economics will necessitate it, and that won’t be comfortable for anyone. 

The choice is ours: sacrifice now and get this situation under control, or sacrifice later when any sense of control is waving at us from our rearview mirror as we drive on a shrunken map that can’t offer any room for comfort.

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