In the grocery store on Friday afternoon. It was Friday the 13th. The day local children found out they would have 10 “snow days” without snow. It was 62 degrees outside. A lucky day?
It was unlike any other trip to the grocery store in my memory, even at Christmas, even before an actual big snowstorm.
Not a roll of toilet paper to be seen. A lone, dented can of green beans sat on a shelf whose contents had been reduced to peas, corn, and some Lima beans. I was not surprised to see the canned peas remained. My husband was not surprised to see Lima beans left behind.
This event–the pandemic of 2020–is bigger than Y2K was because we knew Y2K was coming. We had months to load up on canned goods and toilet paper then. But Y2K never played out.
The coronavirus sneaked up on us in the last few weeks. And while Y2K could have meant global disruption, this one still seemed far away even as it makes its way closer and closer to home.
What surprised me the most at the store was the mood. It was like a holiday. I know it hasn’t been that way everywhere else. This store had no more toilet paper to fight over. But no one seemed to be in a fighting mood.
The checkout lady was in a chipper mood–even as she told me, “It’s been like this for three days.” She must have been exhausted–yet she seemed energized.
The kids–it was late afternoon–already knew they would have no school for two whole weeks. We haven’t had a snow day this year, not even a delay. And now a two-week break. It’s one we won’t have to make up because it’s an emergency. For kids, it’s like an extremely late, very nice Christmas gift.
The attitude within the store smacked of joy. People laughed. They seemed to be getting in one more party–one big community social event–before solitude descends upon us–but somehow not a solitude to regret or begrudge.
There have been no cases of coronavirus confirmed in our area. Yet.
Yet we know it’s coming. It’s just a matter of time. So how do we handle this time?
My own class of high school students received no holiday from me. I assigned work for them to do at home–just in case. And now just in case has come to pass. Most of them are preparing for a high-stakes test–the Advanced Placement test.
The test won’t care that they missed school for two weeks. The test won’t care that they lived a piece of history that won’t require them to make up the days–make-up days that ironically would happen after the test.
There’s a moment in the movie A Quiet Place that comes back to me. Invading monsters kill anything that makes noise. Yet a mother silently teaches her son math. She prepares him for the future even while death looms on the doorstep.
We don’t teach for diversion as impending disaster awaits. We teach to prepare for what will come. For whatever will come.
So extended spring vacation or no, my students will face this test. Success or failure on test day will not significantly affect their lives. Success is encouraging and there are perks–like perhaps getting college credit. Not getting the score you hoped for is disappointing. But either way, we move on to the next test life will provide.
And they will face bigger tests. Real-life trials that may affect them deeply.
When they face those trials, I hope they will find the spirit I saw in a crowd of people in a grocery store getting ready for a challenge that has slowly surrounded us and seems destined to invade our smaller world.
It’s the spirit I hope we all choose.