Last year, while recovering from a mild case of COVID-19, I quarantined from the rest of the family, keeping my own company as best I could.
One night, feeling not much good for anything else, I passed the time by listening to one of J.B. Priestley’s old BBC broadcasts on my laptop. He had much to teach me about looking past the trials of the present moment — a lesson Louisiana and the rest of the world need now in what we hope is the final leg of a global pandemic.
Priestley had gained fame as a British author and playwright when World War II began in Europe in 1939. By 1940, Great Britain was at a low point, and the BBC asked Priestley to offer brief commentaries over the air each Sunday night to buck up morale.
He was no idle cheerleader, thinking too much of his listeners to give them false cheer. Priestley spoke frankly about the ravages of the war, but he offered something else, too. Much of his focus turned to what a postwar world might look like. How might a global tragedy lead to something better in its wake?
In helping fellow citizens to see beyond the crisis of his day, Priestley gave England — and the rest of the free world — a useful measure of hope.
All of this comes to mind because the end of our own worldwide emergency seems in sight. COVID-19 is still claiming many lives, which underscores the importance of continued vigilance. But the tide is turning.
Last year, my social media feed brought regular reports of friends and loved ones who had gotten the virus. This year, Facebook and Twitter display a more encouraging trend — multiplying posts and tweets from those within my circle who are getting vaccinated. I got my first dose of the Moderna vaccine this month.
Those glad tidings point to the practical benefits of planning a post-pandemic community.
What did we learn about resilience that might be of use after the contagion has lifted? I have no grand blueprint, but I’ll mention a couple of things to throw in the mix.
Some years ago, civic activists successfully lobbied to have a sidewalk installed along my street. The walkway, which leads to a nearby park, seemed at first like a pleasant amenity, but during the past year, it’s been something more: a lifeline. Here’s where neighbors can visit each day from a safe social distance and get exercise, both critical needs when the virus kept us largely homebound.
Every neighborhood should have places to walk and play. They’re vital in a pandemic, but also important in more normal times to keep us healthy and engaged.
My library down the street has been a sustaining presence during the pandemic, too. Investing in public outdoor spaces and libraries is a good idea in any season. They should be priorities long after coronavirus has receded.