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These questions echoed through the blitzed streets of London, in veterans halls across the world and between reunited friends for years following the end of World War II. And they will likely find new form in our local vernacular in coming days.
When the novel coronavirus crisis passes — however and whenever it does — we will be left to account for our actions today.
But our accounting will differ wholly from the calculations of crises past.
To begin with, our “bit” will be measured as much by what we have not done, as by what we did do.
Did we heed the advice of experts and local, state and national leaders and stay home? Did we practice social distancing faithfully and to the best of our abilities? Did we give the well-being of our neighbors, our communities and the future of us all priority over our individual wants and even perceived “needs”?
The current crisis and what is being asked of us is frankly counterintuitive to a community steeped in “doing” for others. Our instincts — as were those of generations who came before to tackle world wars and other historic calamities — are surely to come together, roll up our sleeves and get “it” done.
In fact, those impulses are the very traits we take greatest pride in as individuals and as a community.
For more than 150 years, the BH-FP and its predecessors have borne witness to that fact. The newspaper’s pages are regularly filled with communal acts of good, from Share Your Christmas to fish fry fundraisers.
But these times call for a recalibration of our instincts as citizens. We must separate ourselves physically. We must stay home. We must, in so many ways, not do.
And we must wait it out. But how we “wait it out” could make all the difference.
We can spend the time on our hands binge watching, worrying about things we cannot control and counting our losses. Or we can recognize opportunity.
And there is opportunity. The loosening up of our social, school and professional calendars brings us a chance to reassess our priorities, our habits, ourselves.
As we practice social distancing and necessarily adapt our consumer behavior — either for our neighbors’ safety or because we have new pocketbook concerns — yesterday’s “needs” turn into today’s “can do withouts.”
Foregoing those “do withouts” can mean maintaining the ability to continue to inject resources into our community, via spending at local businesses or providing much needed donations to area nonprofits that will struggle in coming days to care for our neighbors.
And while we may not be able to get out to get “it” done, we can still roll up our sleeves, both figuratively and literally, and provide support to our community in other ways. We can make phone and video calls. We can share messages of positivity, following the lead of our educators and youngest citizens who are creating window and yard art to “lift up Bolivar.”
However we do it, we can and must remain connected.
In our individual lives, we can soul search and find value in our new normal. We can recognize the little moments this crisis brings us, as we stay at home with our children, our spouses. We can marvel at the clarity we receive, understanding more fully what little we truly need — and how precious what we do have has become.
We can see our world through fresh eyes, as our perceptions of heroism evolve, bringing new appreciation for first responders, health care workers, grocery store staff, postal workers and delivery drivers.
We can more heartily value truth, facts and reliable information — and the leaders and others who are working under trying conditions to put that information in the hands of citizens.
And on that last point, as editor of the newspaper that has served you on that score for generations, I want you to know our newsroom sees our duty as more critical than ever. What we do as local journalists has never been more important. The trials of our time have reinforced to us the sacredness of our calling.
Our jobs never ended when we left our office desks — our work always went home with us, along with us wherever we physically were. It continues to do so and will continue to do so, with whatever resources and grit we can muster.
I can assure you, when it comes to that latter trait, we are not lacking. We are, after all, Polk Countians.
And I have faith that Polk Countians — regardless of our individual posts or circumstances — will do what needs to be done, will find the strength in and for one another, regardless of physical separation.
Our story will go on. Let’s stay committed to ensuring it will be one of triumph.
And let’s be certain, when asked later how we did our bit, how we spent our “war,” we can all answer without regret, hesitation or embellishment — but with honest pride.