By Joe Rector

The country is slowly beginning to open. I’m not so sure doing so is safe, but pressure from folks who own businesses and others who are just tired of being stuck at home are behind the move. I do understand that people want to go back to work, they want to return to life the way it used to be, and they want to socialize once again. I do too, but that doesn’t mean that I’m willing to dive back into a pool that still might lead to a spike in the number of infections and deaths.

Despite the tragedies that have accompanied this pandemic, the world has witnessed some positive things. For one, CO2 emissions have declined. In China, the decrease is as much as 25%. Globally, the CO2 emissions from fossil fuels have declined by 8%.

In Kathmandu, Nepal, Mt. Everest was visible for the first time in living memory. In major cities around the world, the smog has given way to clearer skies so that sunny days are clear and beautiful. Los Angeles, where sunlight is dimmed by all sorts of emissions, recently had the cleanest air of any major city.

Maybe not so noticeable is the slowdown of daily life. During some mornings, I walk around my yard to look at flowers and plants. The steady stream of cars clogging Ball Camp Pike is gone. Instead, a small number of vehicles have traveled the road during the shutdown. The bonus from the absence of vehicles is the return of nature’s sounds. Birds fill the air with their songs. Squirrels scratch up and down tree trunks as they play. Rabbits crunch the leaves as they hopped through thickets. Even the pleasant sound of a mower cutting the grass in the early morning is audible.

Yes, restaurants are hurting at present. Their dining rooms are empty, and businesses rely on folks picking up meals and taking them home. So many families are once again discovering mealtime. They sit at the supper table or even around the television and eat at the same time. For some, it’s the first time since the children were in highchairs that the entire family has eaten together. Perhaps family members are getting to know each other again and are learning things about each other’s lives.

This pandemic has devastated us in so many ways. We lost loved ones, suffered miserable physical effects, and watched our livelihoods and paychecks disappear. Still, it’s given us a sense of community. It’s shown us that the world still has plenty of heroes. It’s given us back our desire to help others and to be strong. Our ties to family and friends and country are strong. Our destruction of the environment has lessened as we curb our driving and economic pollution.

Soon enough, folks will have the opportunity to return to a normal life. Is that what we want to do? Yes, we need personal contact and jobs that provide money on which to live. However, how much do we really need? Is family connection more important than half a dozen children’s activities? Is all that overtime work needed to provide a stable, quality life for families? Those are just some of the questions we must answer individually. Ultimately, each of us must answer the central question: What are we willing to give up?