“The brave do not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.”
This quote, while written before Covid-19, feels like a question perfectly designed for the debate that rages today. And really, has this quote been turned on its head?
A friend shared this quote earlier this week and I can’t get it out of my mind. I read it while wringing my sweaty hands before taking Daisy to the groomer. I hadn’t been to a store in seven weeks. I have been outside for countless walks but I had not been in a building other than our home in around fifty days. I did the grocery shopping at the beginning of quarantine and each time I went, I became more and more anxious. Rob took over the food shopping on the day he discovered me in our mudroom cleaning our groceries in my bra and underwear. I was so concerned that there might be germs on my clothes that I had left them outside.
As I watched people flock to bars in Wisconsin after their Supreme Court ruled stay at home laws unconstitutional, I truly couldn’t believe my eyes. With our NJ beaches beginning to open, will we see similar unmasked crowds here? I fear we will.
I do understand that we need to tiptoe back out there, that we can not stay in our houses forever. But perhaps, the bravery now is in being cautious? In going back out there but in going back out there cautiously. Yes to bookstores (Bookshelf Thomasville- a store in Georgia that I love following on-line) that are making appointments for one customer at a time to browse the shelves. Yes to groomers (Woof Gang Bakery in Ridgewood) that take one appointment at a time so there are no overlapping customers. Yes to grocery stores (Trader Joe’s) that keep count of the people in their stores and place workers at the end of aisles to maintain one way walking rules. But no to bars crowded with people. No to parks overflowing with large groups. And it pains this beach lover to say this but no to beaches where social distancing just feels impossible.
We are clearly in uncharted territory. I keep thinking back to the people who lived during the Depression and during World War II. I think of them now when I read quotes in newspaper articles that say “We just can’t keep closed up.” “It can’t go on like this.” But here’s the thing. Maybe we don’t want it to go on like this but it can. In the same way my grandparents didn’t want the Depression to go on but it did. In the same way my parents didn’t want World War II to go on but it did. Of course, like the people in those historic times, we don’t want to keep our economy closed. We don’t want to stay in our houses. We don’t want to keep our kids out of school. But can we? Yes, we can. It turns out, like our grandparents and our parents, we have drawn a short straw. We are living in a dark day. And it takes brave leaders to acknowledge this and to ask their people to do really hard things. And it takes brave citizens to follow these recommendations to keep themselves healthy and to keep the vulnerable among us alive. In some ways, we have more control of this situation than our grandparents and parents did in their dark days. If we follow the advice of our doctors and scientists, our dark days will be shorter than if we decide to ignore their advice. There is power in that. There is individual responsibility in that. And for now, there is bravery in being cautious.