La Vida Local
Irregular Notes on West End Life
By Rosanne Graef
Stay the Course
Did you watch the Covid-19 Memorial at the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial on inauguration eve? At last, those 400 lights mirrored in the water for the people we’ve lost was the acknowledgement for which so many of us have yearned.
During the inauguration itself, the sight of the National Mall filled with commemorative flags elicited further feelings of heartache, respect, and appreciation for the immensity of the suffering and sacrifice our country has endured. The Americans of different ages and backgrounds who took center stage during the inauguration inspired hope that we can, as President Biden said, “Live in the present…focus on the future…listen, see, and show respect for each other…and end this uncivil war.”
Stirring words aside, we must recognize that the pandemic continues. Vaccines promise eventual relief, but distancing, masking, and curtailing in-person gatherings remain the order of the day. As do the questions: How do we cope with this emotionally? How do we keep our bearings and deal with things like fear, loneliness, or loss of purpose?
Lessons of the past
Throughout the pandemic I’ve been struck by how little people learned through their families about the 1918 pandemic. I knew all my grandparents and all three of my great-grandparents. They were anywhere from their early 50s to their late teens in 1918. Yet, no one seems to have passed any of their own remembrances on to succeeding generations. What were their thoughts at the time? How did they cope? Perhaps there were too many other catastrophes that they experienced – WWI, the Depression, WWII – to warrant recollecting one that had few bright spots and ended with uncertainty about its possible return. It might be helpful to know. Let’s not lose the opportunity again.
Small acts that spread kindness
Often examples of small actions by the guy down the street or the woman across town are those that turn out to be the most meaningful without our even realizing it. Extraordinary in their ordinariness, they touch people in ways that comfort both the receiver and the giver. A pianist opens her windows while practicing; a group of friends puts together a public memorial; people create art, take sunrise photographs, try recipes, sew masks. Even more they share their techniques and experiences with their families, friends, and strangers, thanks to the skills and generosity of a couple who have learned the ins and outs of Zoom. A short film of some of these projects is located at https://thewestendnews.com/covid-19-pandemic-projects.
You can do things like this as well and it doesn’t take internet access. Make a collage, write, or draw something and display it in your window or outdoors. Bake and give some to a neighbor. You never know whose feelings will be lifted. Maybe yours.
If you’d like further ideas and resources, look for The UnLonely Project online: https://www.artandhealing.org.
Especially check out the tab for Stuck At Home (Together). No matter our age or station in life, we can all use a boost to keep us steady and ready for the challenges ahead, when the pandemic is well and truly over.
Until then, please, heed the posters and banners: we’ve come this far, Stay the Course.
Rosanne Graef lives in the West End and is a regular volunteer contributor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.