A Little Taste of Normal and the Humpback in the Pantry

I had a friend reach out to me late last week. We had been texting back and forth about some possible summer plans for our kids. He mentioned that we should grab lunch next week and discuss it. Lunch? Like at a real restaurant? Not a FaceTime call over last night’s leftovers? Funny how the things we all took for granted seem so foreign these days. But the idea made me smile. I know it’s a little thing, having lunch with a friend, but it symbolizes something more. Something positive. Something a tiny bit hopeful. It means things can and will get better.

We’ve all been living with COVID-19 for several months now and it has monumentally changed how we live our lives. But it hasn’t changed who we are. We are resilient. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians listened to the province’s advice and we managed to flatten the curve. Yes, it came at a cost. It’s heartbreaking to think of loved-ones in long term care just praying for a bit of company. Or those in the hospital unable to receive essential care…the love of those closest to them. Some businesses have gone and are not coming back. And those who could not afford much had to somehow get by with less.

As we move into Alert Level 3, and more things seem to open up, let’s all keep in mind those best practises that got us here. Wash your hands often. Practise physical distancing and cough etiquette. And stay home if you feel sick. A little taste of normal is coming. The NHL and NBA are planning limited seasons. Decks are putting out umbrellas. Even the kids’ activities, from hockey camp to choir, have started planning and sign-ups. But it seems as the dark cloud of the pandemic dissipates a little, attention is slowly turning back to the humpback whale in the pantry: the economy.

It seems every couple of years it becomes necessary for some opinion piece or national story to talk about the financial hardships and inevitable ruin of Newfoundland and Labrador. Attach the tow ropes. We’ve filled the province with rocks and we’ll drag it out even further into the ocean and sink what they say is already sunk. I don’t buy into that. Nor should you.

It’s a hard thing to ask of people who have sacrificed so much during these last months of quarantine. To ask them to be optimistic about the future. But that’s exactly what I’m asking you to do. Yes, we have serious and immediate problems to address with the provincial economy. But at this moment, start locally. Get out there and shop or dine or visit those local businesses that are the fabric of this place. It’s a first step and you’ll feel a little better for it.

We also need to take a closer look at the social issues that existed long before COVID-19 and remain today, maybe even amplified more. The pandemic pulled the blanket off deeper issues such as food insecurity and a lack of safety nets for the most vulnerable. And the tragic, senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has resonated around the world. Yes, black lives matter. And apathy endorses appeasement. We all need to add our voices here. Let’s celebrate our diversity, not fear it. To do as Martin Luther King said and judge people on the content of their character and not the colour of their skin.

I know these are unusual times, and that you and your family are facing uncertainty, anxiety, and a fear of the unknown, whether of the pandemic or our province’s economic future. Just remember that Newfoundland and Labrador has always been the 500+-year-old comeback kid. I’m not being naïve here. I’m being optimistic. I’m aware of the weight of the situation we are all in. But I believe in this place. It’s people. It’s potential. I’ve seen it rise and fall and rise again and again. Doubt emboldens the brave. And we all need a little of that right now.