My hands are cleaner than they have been since 2003, when Jason and I disinfected ourselves by singing 20-second renditions of the ABC’s while scrubbing with iodine in order to visit Felix in the NICU. When he came home, there were times when I’d be stuck in the house for months--when running to the corner to buy a carton of milk was a rare and delicious taste of freedom. The handwashing and homeboundness we are all in now feels a bit like déjà vu all over again.
But of course, this is no longer a personal matter--it’s citywide, statewide, countrywide, worldwide. As strange as all this feels--retreating into a sort of hibernation right when the daffodils are blooming--our precautions are for the very best of reasons. Those of us who are young and healthy are not acting to protect ourselves, but to prevent the disease from hurting the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. Our seclusion is a form of mass altruism. That we are so radically acting on this--schools closing, sports on hold, stores shuttered--is a reminder that we as a society can shift habitual behavior. If we can do this to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, imagine the other things we can do when we work together.
Already, things are shifting: satellites show dramatic drops in air pollution in China and Italy. No doubt the air quality in the United States will improve also; there may also be fewer mass shootings, as there will be fewer crowds to shoot into. Opportunities for positive change can come from this. But for now, we are in the hunkering-down stage, and a big challenge is how to stay connected in isolation.
In my neighborhood, we have created a Google doc that connects neighbors who need help--with groceries, prescriptions, dog walking--to neighbors who can help them. And then there is the Google classroom, despised by my children, but at least it’s something.
At Extreme Kids, we’ve been thinking a lot about how we can connect online and outside. Contact sports and playground equipment are not recommended, but what about a daily scavenger hunt? Find a crocus. Find a tree that’s waving at you. Find graffiti, a barking dog, a jumping squirrel, a yellow car. I will be organizing a virtual book club for both adults and children featuring works by this year’s Felix Awardees--more on that soon. Meanwhile, I encourage you and your kids to dance, draw, invent new recipes, write plays or comedy routines or poems. Record your work and send it to me! I will post it here. We will share what we do best. We will call it Operation Cosy Crew.
The disability community is used to the world being topsy-turvy--to routines being broken, to medical solutions not working as planned. Coping, humor, resilience, creativity, working together are things we are good at. Let’s use this time well. Let’s treasure what we have.
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