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Life will return to normal at some point

TRAVERSE CITY — When people think the sky is falling, there’s an obvious risk in saying “Yes, it is … but it’s also not.”

I’m going to take that risk.

Yes, the coronavirus is awful. It’s killed roughly 12,000 worldwide so far.

But it could have killed more. Believe it or not, the world is better now at containing and blunting viruses than it’s ever been. The Bubonic Plague killed 75 to 200 million. Last century’s Spanish Flu killed as “few” as 17 million, as many as 100 million.

Yes, your retirement account has gone all “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” on you. But you know how few people in America even have a 401K? About half. Your investments will recover.

Yes, it sucks to be stuck at home all the time. There’s only so much Netflix you can watch, only so many rooms you can paint, only so many of your spouse’s tics and habits you can suddenly find fault with. But if your boss had told you a month ago, “Hey, stay home and work, or take a few weeks off entirely and catch up on your crossword puzzles,” you’d have been delighted. Use the time to protect yourself and your loved ones and be useful to those who have less than you. Maybe learn something. Finish the sentence: “I’ve always wanted to …” Then do that.

Yes, the Trump administration (fact, not fiction) grossly and repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the crisis early on — primarily to protect the stock market — and has continued to be incremental and grudging about solutions. (That the greatest nation on earth can’t produce enough facemasks and ventilators is ridiculous.)

But maybe that will finally, finally, finally spur us to put and keep people in office who actually care about more than their wealthy friends and who think we can do a heckuva lot better when it comes to preventive measures, and just about everything else, too.

Yes, people are losing jobs. And, yes, there’s no silver lining there. Losing a job sucks, period. The best we can do is demand that the government help the unemployed, the underemployed and those who are losing hours. We can also support local restaurants by ordering take-out and tipping generously and buying gift certificates or services in advance (one guy on Twitter bought a years-worth of lunches in advance from his favorite restaurant). Remember to buy local.

Yes, it sucks that just about every event in the country has been canceled. But baseball will return. Concerts will be rescheduled. So will conferences, speeches etc. Maybe we’ll appreciate them more when they come back. Or maybe not. Do we really need business conferences?

Yes, we’re all afraid. But think how relatively few of us are suffering in any real or lasting way. Also, it’s wise to remember that there’s a big difference between legitimate coronavirus concerns and the fear of coronavirus. Fear is a productive emotion, designed to prevent us from being stomped on by a mastodon or rubbing our eyes after touching the gas pump handle. But it’s only useful in small doses. In large doses, fear is toxic to the mind, spirit and body. If you’re going to be fearful of anything, be afraid of worrying too much.

Yes, we’re seeing the small, lizard-brain side of some people. (Toilet paper hoarders, I’m looking right at you.) But as a friend of mine said on Facebook: “The times I have ventured out, people generally seem like they are trying extra-hard to be decent to each other.” I’ve seen that, too. Way to go, people. How about we keep that up in normal times, too?

The reality of the coronavirus — as bad as it is and as bad as it will get — is it is only temporary.

Life will return to normal at some point.

Until it does, let’s try to help one another, OK?

— — —

Andrew Heller, an award-winning newspaper columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Follow him at andrewheller.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Write to him via email at andrewhellercolumn@gmail.com.

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