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Gee on:Social Distancing

My daughter, Rebekah, recently told some friends that socially distancing is hard for me because my idea of a quiet evening at home is having 400 people for dinner.

She was exaggerating, of course. Two hundred is plenty.

So, if you find our current situation difficult, you are not alone. And if you are tired of people telling you why social distancing is necessary, I can empathize with that, also. My staff has done everything but equip Blaney House with guard dogs, officers and drones to prevent the mischief and misery they anticipate if I were to escape.

But keeping people safe must be our highest priority in this unprecedented crisis. Social distancing seems to be helping to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus infection, both in West Virginia and nationally.

So, let us continue working together at keeping apart. As members of a learning community, we can take advantage of the opportunity our newfound spare time provides for reading and reflection. Two of my favorite books are Love in the Time of Cholera and A Hundred Years of Solitude, both by Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez. As you can tell from their titles, they suit the world in which we find ourselves, exploring themes of isolation, illness and resilience. Throughout these pages, Márquez reminds us that to be human is to be a miracle of evolution.

As I have learned in this time of self-isolation, there is a staggering fragility about the human condition that makes us all psychologically vulnerable. But, due that fragility, we have evolved a singular faculty that might just be the crowning miracle of who we are: hope.

Hope, and the actions that spring from it, is our antidote to panic, hysteria and heartbreak. I am hopeful precisely because I know our choices give us the power to create change. In that light, social distancing is an act of optimism. It is an expression of hope.

Let us all keep managing our moment with responsibility, grace and an eye to the future that brings us together again.