While sheltering in place during this international crisis, we’ve all been attempting to make lemonade out of the lemons we’ve been dealt by this coronavirus respiratory killer. Cooped up with too much time on my hands has led this retired history teacher to contemplate some of the possible non-anticipated challenges and changes coming for our families, our health, and the economy.

One of the many adjustments to a new way of life: Kennebunk Free Library is closed, but continues to offer free WiFi to those in need of a connection. Dan King photo

First, it’s important to remember that all of our previous modern catastrophic events — World Wars I and II, Vietnam, depressions/recessions, the 1960s assassinations, 9/11, and other pandemics (1950s Polio and the 1918 Spanish Flu), have taught earlier American generations that after the crisis is surmounted, our lives will probably not return to the way they were before.

During this first month of our partial confinement, we witnessed close up the panic buying and the fine art of hoarding in our grocery stores. The shocker has been the panic buying of toilet paper of all things. Some folks out there must have already stockpiled more than two to three years of those now golden rolls.

I wonder if they’ve even put them under lock and key? What’s next on the hoarding “must have it list?” Will hoarding become a new American past time and characteristic?

Judging from the empty grocery store shelves all efforts for a healthy diet have been thrown out the window. Pasta, spaghetti sauces, canned tuna, hot dogs, soup, peanut butter, baked beans and frozen meals will be the new pillars in the nation’s Dietary Food Pyramid?

Hypertension, cardiac disease, and diabetes, already long-time health concerns for all of our age groups, coupled with the lack of exercise resulting from now closed gyms, parks, and beaches, will take an increasing number of lives after this current crisis passes. This will also leave us even more vulnerable when the next virus emerges from China.

For decades, sociologists have been increasingly concerned by the developing trend of Americans distancing themselves from their neighbors, co-workers, and community. Declining church attendance and the fading of many service clubs and organizations has added to that reduced involved with the community.

Now that social distancing — home isolation and six-foot spacing from others, has been made official policy by the CDC and the state of Maine during this health crisis, will we be able to reverse this practice when the all clear sounds? Will some folks remain self isolated for the rest of their lives?

We know that some people, years from now, will continue to shudder in fear from a human touch. Will closer proximity, handshakes, hugs and kisses become only a distant memory?

For years, we as a society have been concerned about our younger generations and their retreat from face-to-face relations and their withdrawal into the increasingly isolated world of social media and video games. Will that disengagement trend now accelerate? Can it be reversed, or are we looking at sizeable numbers of that generation living at the keyboards and game controls in their parents’ basements?

Families have seen their youngsters — K-12ers and college students sent home to shelter-in-place, adding to the numerous and seemingly un-surmountable challenges parents are already facing.

One of the few positives during this crisis is that families are re-discovering card and board games, family comfort food dinners with everyone now at the table, Netflix binging and movie and popcorn nights at home. They’re even learning to talk with each other without the once-needed social media platforms and devices. When the days of confinement end and we all return to busy work and school schedules, will we all make the effort to continue this growing family closeness?

On the negative side, we’ve talked with one mother whose 6-year-old daughter asks every day, ‘Mommy, is that virus going to get me today?’

If this isolate at home continues for an extended period of time, as it now appears it will, what will be the new levels of child abuse, spousal violence, and suicide will we endure? Do we have the resources to respond?

Our high school seniors of the class of 2020, much like many of their Pearl Harbor grandparents of the Class of 1941, have maybe lost their final athletic seasons, proms and graduation ceremonies. Here in Maine, many of those World War II veterans, now in their 90s, are finally receiving, belatedly, their high school diplomas.

Many of the class of 2020 seniors have been together since nursery school and kindergarten. They’ve earned and deserve all the “Pomp and Circumstance” that comes with the final semester of high school.

We don’t know when there’ll be light at the end of this tunnel, but I believe, regardless of the time of year, our communities with the support of the students, their teachers and coaches need to start planning when this is all over proms and formal graduation ceremonies. They’ve lost that final semester of bonding with their fellow seniors, but they shouldn’t have to lose it all. Do you think our communities and schools can pull it off for them? Will you be a part of that?

Tom Murphy is a former teacher, state representative and Kennebunk Landing resident. He can be reached at [email protected]

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