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How We Proceed Is Our Choice

When I lived in Potsdam as a student in 1998 we endured a spectacular ice storm that brought life in the North Country to a standstill for weeks. For seven days I lived with about 1500 others in the college’s fieldhouse, waiting for news from the state about when our power would return. On the second day of the crisis, on the front page of the newspaper I saw an image of service trucks sent from Dayton Power & Light. I grew up around Dayton and consider it my hometown. The paper reported DP&L had made the 650 drive to the North Country to help restore power to our stricken community. I kept that paper, and looking at the image of my hometown–my people–coming to our aid in Potsdam is still enough to choke me up 22 years later.

Like that ice storm, the novel Coronavirus, Covid-19 promises to enter our community and derail all predictable routines. This virus has officially caused a pandemic. We are past the stage where we can deny the realities from a comfortable distance. The stakes are too high. The deaths, too real.

We can be forgiven for wondering what fate has in store for us. I am afraid. I don’t want to lose family, friends, colleagues, neighbors–anyone. I know losses are inevitable, and many of us may lose someone we know to the virus. I am afraid for our brave healthcare workers and those caring for the sick, for those keeping our stores open, the lights on, the water running. I worry about my kids a lot.

In truth, how we proceed in this moment is our choice. It will always be our choice. We can give in to fear or we can act for the good of our community.

I suggest, as you are able, choose action.

In Jamestown, many of our fellow citizens are older and may have compromised immune systems. Older residents are most susceptible to the Coronavirus. Keep your distance, but keep in touch. Call, email, and text your friends and relatives. Let them know they are missed and loved. Share stories of hope and promote positive milestones as we fight this threat.

Give blood. Donations are down and blood drives have been cancelled due to the pandemic. Donate money or time to food banks and shelters in your area. Share information online responsibly and take a break from politics. You’ll feel better practicing kindness and help others get through this difficult time. For yourself, take walks and enjoy nature. Closing your eyes and listening to the natural sounds of the world can help lower stress and anxiety.

Whatever your job, your income, your obligations in life, all of us must work for the good of our community. Each of us must take responsibility for washing our hands, regularly. We must limit interactions with others in larger groups, and if we must be together in public, maintain a safe distance. It is unusual and uncomfortable, but it will make a difference.

During the ice storm in Potsdam, the thing I remember most was the upbeat spirit of fellow volunteers and everyone’s willingness to help. This is no time for despair. Now is a time for all healthy women and men to consider what they can do to help fight this virus and meet the challenges presented to us. Together we can do great things.

Craig Garaas Johnson is a Jamestown resident.

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