Our connections to each other are deeper than we may have thought

photo from whyyourhistorymatters.com

No one is immune to the virus, and we never should have thought so.

My two children are no longer in school. So, why should I care if the schools in my community close? Care about it or not, the answer is because that disruption to the community permeates throughout it. The children, their families and the employees will all drastically change their plans for that day, week or month. A simple snow day can sure rattle those people.

Kids were going to eat lunch, and possibly breakfast at school that day. School closing can change the food plan for entire families.

The parents were planning to go to their place of employment during the school day. Those parents’ employers were expecting some production out of those now absent employees. The employers’ customers’ plans are impacted. And the connections go on and on.

We should all care about school closings.

I am not the rabid basketball fan I once was. I did not have plans to go the Big Ten Tournament that was happening a mile and a half away from my house, before it was cancelled Thursday. But between ten and twenty thousand people were going to gather at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on five consecutive days in my neighborhood. What does the void mean for my community, the visitors here, and the thousands who were on their way? It is hard to estimate accurately, but to my friends in the restaurant and hotel industries, this was going to be the weekend in which they made most of their income for the month.

While it is an easier expectation in Indiana than in most places, we should all care about basketball tournament cancellations.

Five years ago, Indianapolis became ground zero for a few weeks when the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, became a political and governmental catastrophe. Indiana was labeled as intolerant of the LGBTQ community on the national and international stage. The immediate danger felt in the city was largely felt by the convention and tourism market. The cancellations and threats of more rocked our city. Hotels, the convention center, restaurants and everyone who worked in and around all of it started doing their own personal math immediately. But that “personal math” quickly became community math for hundreds of thousands of Hoosier stakeholders all deeply integrated in our community’s life.

We should all care about how the world sees us.

The graduate program I am enrolled in is largely done online, so college closures don’t immediately impact my student life. Moving traditional, in-person college classes to an online platform seems a logical step at the moment, but what about campus living facilities in our college towns? Are 30,000 students at Indiana University, for example, being sent home?

We should all care about how colleges handle their students and staff.

The internet makes it easy for me to do what I do from home. I type this column sitting at my kitchen counter as usual. The conference calls on my calendar will be conducted wherever I might be. What does an employee at a manufacturing facility do in the midst of the work-from-home rush? Take the Honda plant in Greensburg, Indiana for instance. It’s hard to build cars from home. What about healthcare workers in Decatur County Memorial Hospital, the county where Greensburg is located?

The pressure on our world’s healthcare system in the face of COVID 19 will be immense, but is still unknown. We should not forget that the “healthcare system” is made up of people. And they are people to whom we are also all connected.

We should all care about those who can’t work from home.

It is in times like these that this truth becomes unavoidable: we are all connected to each other. That truth is now obvious in a mid-sized city like Indianapolis, and in small towns like Greensburg. But we are also connected to Rome, Seoul and Wuhan, though it is less obvious.

Crises in America bring with it a critical eye from Americans. It could also bring out our best in us. We could support each other with a re-energized sense of empathy for the unique ways it impacts each other. That shouldn’t be difficult under the circumstances.

I don’t care much about basketball tournaments and school closures in my daily life, but there are plenty of people important to me who do. So, now I do too.

I hope we don’t overlook what this experience could teach us. That would be a real shame.

 

 

 

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Michael Leppert

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