My regular trips to Elk County have have given me a lot to think about.
A couple of weeks ago, a barista at the Sheetz in Ridgway asked me a simple question: “You want your cold brew just black, nothing in it?” Through a muffled mask, I told her, “Sure, that’s fine, since the self-serve station is closed now.” The pandemic was starting to escalate, and I was uncomfortable being in a gas station and touching things. I just wanted to get out of there quickly.
She insisted on getting me some Sweet ‘n Low or flavoring for my coffee, and I thanked her more than once for doing that. She looked at me and said, “We are all in this together.”
Such a small act, but such a big impact. She had changed my mood over a cup of cold-brew coffee.
That same day, I sat down with a Ridgway store owner. He and I began pondering “the new normal.” How long would people be wearing masks? How long would they be afraid to leave the house? How long would they flinch at a sneeze or a cough? How long, how long.
I began thinking, though: Would some aspects of a new normal really be so bad?
I, of course, don’t mean the sickness and death, the constant fear, the joblessness, the masks, the six-feet-apart rule, the not seeing your family and friends.
I mean the immense amount of good that has come out of the pandemic, good that we have rarely, barely ever seen before — endless donations and “Thank yous” and words of encouragement to essential workers, first responders, those in need. Food or flower deliveries to senior citizens, cards sent to nursing homes, more phone calls to family. People choosing to buy from small businesses or support local restaurants, rather than chains or big-box stores, something we all should do more of to begin with. Having such a larger appreciation for the “little” things — dinner with a friend, hugging your parents, a football game, worshiping from a church pew, a haircut every few weeks.
Coronavirus will fade. Most of the masks and the fear will go away, but I hope much of the good we’ve had the chance to experience will stay. I hope we all give an extra hug, say an extra “Thank you” and remember that kindness should extend beyond a pandemic.
And who could forget the hand washing? I hope that stays, too.
Brianne Fleming is a reporter with the Courier Express and makes her home in Falls Creek. She enjoys her job, animals, and staying active.