We began the New Year (some say the next decade, but that is a debate for another day) by facing a looming global pandemic.  Panic set in and hoarding of cleaning supplies and groceries ensued.  During the final weeks of winter and the start of the season often characterized as a time of rebirth and renewal, our economy nearly collapsed, unemployment skyrocketed, the country went on lockdown, and a staggering number of human lives were lost.  We learned that there would not be enough Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for health professionals, not enough hospital space or ventilators for those in critical care, and not enough morgues to hold the dearly departed.  We witnessed incredible pain and suffering and some of us experienced this firsthand. 

Yet we also have seen uplifting acts of kindness, a surge in creativity and innovation, and selfless examples of great sacrifice.  That is to say, despite all the terrible things that have happened since this began, some good things have come out of this public health crisis.  In an effort to spread hope and awareness, we share them here. 

By the age of 5 we were taught to wash our hands (before eating and after using the bathroom or touching pets or playing outside…).  Did you develop good habits into adulthood?  Or did you slack off?  Have you been singing a 20-second tune while scrubbing or have you been doing the 2-second rinse and run?  If you were the guy or gal sending a text while perusing a menu and then sticking your hand in the bread basket to chow down without washing up, I bet you are less likely to do that today.  The country got a refresher course in one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of communicable diseases.  We re-learned when to wash our hands and the proper way to do so.  We also were reminded about an important etiquette lesson regarding sneezing and coughing.  We grasped the importance of Social Distancing in order to Flatten the Curve.  Perhaps we gained a better understanding of some principles of epidemiology and the role of applied mathematics in determining how viruses are spread.  No doubt we all learned something in recent weeks. 

One interesting outcome of the lockdown has been the change in our atmosphere.  This has been detected in many locations across the planet.  Watching a nearly real-time connection between our movements (or lack thereof) and their effect on Mother Earth is timely as we observed the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.  Conversely, as our activity decreased, wild animals reclaimed some natural spaces and are roaming empty streets.  In the absence of humans and their influence on local wild inhabitants, critters have been freer to explore areas normally heavily occupied by people. 

Prior to the shutdown of parks and natural area preserves, as events got cancelled and self-isolation led to cabin fever, folks fled to trails and open spaces to escape the indoors.  They turned off the increasingly depressing news, put down their mobile devices, and picked up a pair of binoculars.  Time spent in the great outdoors spawned a deeper appreciation for the natural world and a boom in backyard birdwatching

If you are new to birding, the American Birding Association offers some tips and resources to get started.  Wild birds are a beautiful part of our national heritage.  Right now, they may serve as a delightful distraction from all the gloom, but they have a far greater purpose.  Birds tell us about the health and integrity of ecosystems.  They provide control of insects and pollinate our food.  We have a responsibility to ensure these vital feathered creatures not only survive, but thrive in their native habitats.  A recent study determined that we have lost 3 billion birds since 1970, but there are ways to help including keeping cats indoors and reducing our use of plastics

Maybe the most significant development due to COVID-19 is that staying home brought people closer together.  Families and friends reconnected and neighbors finally became acquainted.  In the same vein, we hope that you have gotten to know the Freedom Center family a little better.  We look forward to when we can all celebrate in person again at one of our events.  Until then, stay safe and find the good. 

– Linda Cherkassky @FCW