Sen. Ruth Ward: A time of challenges – and growth

For the Monitor
Published: 5/2/2020 6:00:04 AM

‘There is no aspect of American life that remains untouched (due to COVID-19),” stated an opinion piece titled “How epidemics change civilizations” in the Wall Street Journal on March 28.

These rubrics recently caught my eye as I was looking through the blogs, and papers.

It is true that much has changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. People who are used to regular hours at their place of work are now either working from home or not working at all. Students are not in classrooms. Athletic competitions are canceled, and college graduations will take place next fall at the earliest.

With the shutdown of “non-essential services,” many small businesses are on hold. People are furloughed. Some workers, such as those doing home care work are afraid of the risk of going into homes. Nursing homes and home care businesses are short-staffed, and the people counting on care are short-changed. Congregate meal sites are closed.

Being a parent has never been more of a full-time job than it is right now. Families are anxious about the their physical and financial well-being while trying to learn new roles, such as teacher.

As a legislator, being essentially shut out from regular activities has been frustrating. Teleconference and virtual meetings have become the norm. No face-to-face meetings with constituents, no visits to see how people are faring, no community suppers, or similar events. Everything has been canceled for our safety. No one wants to be the victim of COVID-19.

I am taking this crisis as both a challenge and an opportunity to grow.

My aim is to encourage us to think about what is important, what we can do – not exclusively focus on what we can’t do. That attitude is not good for our general well-being. Optimism is good for our health, promotes a healthy immune system, which we all need, particularly now.

With that in mind, I would like to share a few things that I have learned during this crisis, whether in my own life or by talking to my constituents:

Cooking at home can be a fun activity to share with your spouse and children. I have been experimenting with new recipes looking for the next “keeper.” And if the recipe calls for an ingredient that is not available, I just try to substitute something else.

This pandemic has forced us to slow down. Without sports practices and games to rush to, after-work meetings and other networking events to attend, there’s more time to spend with family and actually have a conversation.

Many of us have discovered that our digital prowess is wanting. How can we use our computers and cellphones more efficiently? Personally I seem to be on video conferences a lot more. How do you use the “mute” button, the “raise your hand” button? Change your backgrounds? Now is an opportunity to learn.

A walk outside is good for the physical well-being for both adults and children. You may get into conversations with your children and other family members, and discover who they are, and what they are thinking while enjoying our beautiful surroundings.

Learning and teaching can take place almost anywhere. You don’t need a desk, and a special room, or certain hours. There are many resources online that can be used, and a walk outside gives opportunity to observe nature in many ways. Many parents will find a new passion for home schooling, while finding a new appreciation for the hard work that our teachers put in each day.

Students looking for work – use this time to do your online research. You have the opportunity to learn about the companies you are interested in, and don’t forget to ask experienced workers/professionals their thoughts about their work. What do they like? What are the drawbacks? Ask how they got started.

Social contact is very important. If you have a family member or friends who live alone, take the time to call them or host a virtual meeting so people can still interact with each other and see friendly faces.

At the end of this you will have discovered strengths you did not know you had, and inner resources you did not think you possessed. I know I have.

Remember – this too shall pass, and we will all be stronger for it.

(Ruth Ward of Stoddard represents District 8 in the New Hampshire Senate.)


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