By Jody Jordan – Special to the Navarro County Gazette

In early March of 2020, we knew there was a virus, what it was called, and where it came from. For a year I had been planning a small family vacation for Spring Break, our first of any kind in several years, and I moved forward with those plans despite the looming fear that something was going to happen. Up until that point, life had been business as usual with long formed routines and habits happening at a blinding pace. Our trip to Sand Dunes State Park and Carlsbad Caverns National Park changed that.

The parks were relatively empty, which was a strong indication that I was flirting with fire – myself and my kids, and our little dog Rocky staying in a hotel in Monahans, and going into these places that attract visitors from all over the globe. We enjoyed every moment – The long road trip with singalong music, the disc sledding down giant hills of pure white sand. The breathtaking beauty of nature on the surface, and as we marched ourselves 1000 feet below ground.

We bought some picnic groceries on the precipice of the massive toilet paper shortage. The small grocery store in Monahans still stocked, but an edge to the energy and a whisper among the people. Not a single soul had a mask or extra hand sanitizer in their possession. That would quickly change. A call from my sister-in-law that I might want to pick up TP on my way home was enough to make me nervous – our town’s suppliers were already picked to empty. If we stayed one more night, we’d return home to what? It was time to go.

I drove straight through that night. Tired. Foggy. Rain dampened and afraid. Arriving home relieved and realizing that we’d perhaps been exposed to a deadly thing while on vacation and that we might not have the ability to buy groceries and stock our home the next day.

We all know how the next months went. At first, strange shortages of food items we’d never seen the stores run out of and stay-at-home orders for nonessential people. Some people lost their incomes, while others pivoted in ways to change their jobs in a safe way. School changed. Work changed. Money changed. Toilet paper changed. Some of these changes may never revert to how it was before – and I do believe we will be better for that in the far long run. Things we truly loved were indefinitely cancelled (I still cannot believe that I have not been to or taught a taekwondo class in more than nine months. This blows my mind!), and we learned a lot about the world and ourselves.

In retrospect today, the positives already started outweighing the bad – if we allow ourselves to find them. Perhaps some got more rest than they ever have and realized just how tired they were in their previous routines. Perhaps internet service providers realized that their product is definitely a utility now more than a novelty, and that improving services to underserved rural areas is a priority. Perhaps grocers learned how to manage shortages and improve their shopping options. Perhaps employers learned that their workforce can and will get things done working remotely, and that the fear of diminished productivity is gone. The possibilities are endless when you know there is something new to learn every day.

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