03 margaretLike millions of other Americans, I wake up every morning wondering what is going to happen today. How horrifying will the COVID-19 resurgence be? How and why has a protective health measure like covering one’s nose and mouth become a political statement? Will protesters be on our streets and will there be violence, damages and injuries?

It is a time unlike any other, at least in my lifetime.

The negatives of our collective situation are apparent to all Americans, and many of us are suffering financially and psychologically, individually and collectively. Each of us and our families approach this difficult time in our own ways, and none of us is certain we are doing it well. Every decision and every action seem — and are — a calculated risk.

It helps to think of silver linings, and there are some.

Since March, millions of us have been forced to slow down. Working remotely or not working at all has given us more time with our families, not all of it fairy tale perfect, of course, but opportunities to get to know each other in new ways. We are not side-by-side with our friends and coworkers, but we do “see” them through 21st century technology.

We are spending more time outdoors, because we have more time and fewer places, like gyms, to go. Walkers and bikers, both serious athletes and casual strollers and pedal pushers, populate our neighborhoods. We are listening to and watching for birds, with apps to identify birds by both sight and sound downloaded by the millions. Live-cam feeds of nesting birds have soared in popularity.

Cats and dogs are flying out shelter doors as Americans adopt them in record numbers.

Experts say we foster and adopt pets to help them, especially those who have been abandoned, but we wind up helping ourselves cope with stress and become more active as we care for our new charges.

We are learning that maybe, just maybe, we really do not need all the possessions and services we thought we did. This American did not have a haircut for more than three months, and while I was not thrilled by my shaggy tresses, I muddled through just like everyone else and was delighted when I finally did get a trim. Ditto for other personal services and impulse purchases not made because we are not out shopping as often as we were preCOVID-19.

And, glory be — Americans are cooking again. With restaurants closed or operating at reduced capacity, we have had to provide for ourselves, and many of us are getting creative. Sourdough starter is having a big moment, producing bread, pancakes, waffles and anything else bakers want to try. Many of us are cooking together, a first in some American households. The Dicksons’ summer obsession turns out to be finding the perfect tomato pie recipe, and we think we have it now.

More cooking means more groceries, some of them selected online and then picked up or delivered. No surprise then that grocery profits have spiked during the pandemic, as have those of other industries that make us more comfortable at home. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that also thriving are meal prep companies and prepared food outlets, cleaning and delivery services, liquor and wine stores, game makers and sellers, fitness equipment companies, landscaping and yard services, garden centers, and — guess who — mask producers.

Americans are also doing each other small kindnesses, and each of us has a story to tell about those. One that resonates with me comes from the Gallery X Art Collective in Murray, Kentucky. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the tattoo parlor is offering to cover up inked symbols of hate or gangs — free of charge. Says tattoo artist Ryun King, “Having anything hate related is completely unacceptable. A lot of people when they were younger just didn’t know any better and were left with mistakes on their bodies. We just want to make sure everybody has a chance to change.” Their phone is ringing regularly.

Such is the phenomenon that is 2020, which still has six months to go.

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