Thanksgiving, 2020 ~ A Message from The Bedford Citizen

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Thanksgiving Eve, and Covid-19 is on the platter.

So, before you pass the potatoes, choose your metaphor:

  • We are being tested, and it looks like we are going to pass.
  • “Well, that’s 2020. for you.”
  • It’s the top of the fifth, the bases are loaded and our closer isn’t ready.

The only certainty is that the deadly pandemic is compromising everybody’s health. And that’s no figure of speech.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the late chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, explained it simply: “What makes us human is the strength and quality of our relationships.”

For more than nine months, those relationships have been almost totally virtual. (Can you imagine where we would be if not for the technology that at least lets us see each other when we communicate?) What we need are not only the events that bring us together but the everyday casual contacts that we used to take for granted – using separators at the supermarket, chatting in line while waiting to check in to town meeting, going to the office without a health check.

We need our humanity.

But patience is still the most important health consideration. There is hope on the horizon. And meanwhile, there actually are reasons to be thankful.

At the micro-level, we are citizens of this community, where the response to the pandemic can be defined as uplifting and gratifying. Individually, we have our strengths and weaknesses. Collectively, Bedford is truly blessed.

There’s truly an ethos of day-to-day civility, empathy, and dignity that seems to have permeated the town during this extended suspension of normalcy. The pandemic has engendered its own etiquette and culture,  and we are all benefiting in small ways—deference to passers-by on the sidewalk and in stores, messages of hope chalked in driveways, the general respect that overrides policy disagreements.

As one resident put it, “Civic action, volunteerism, and just plain neighborliness have built not just a town, but a community.”

Our institutions have been models of leadership and initiative.

Local government is an exemplary participant. The town manager, department heads, elected and appointed officials, and the rank and file workforce are literally saving lives while exemplifying transparency and sustaining services we all rely on every day.

Cities and towns are responsible for public safety and public works, finances, and records. Beyond those, you can tell a lot about a community by the services taxpayers choose to pay for. In Bedford, the Health and Human Services Department is attacking the virus and its damage—with social workers, food donations, a community nurse.

Then there are the educators—the central office, principals, faculty, staff, and the School Committee. They are nothing short of heroic. Sure, there are serious differences of opinion on the safest, most effective way to balance learning between in-person and remote. No one signed up for school the way it is unfolding this year. But our educators are absorbing the countless hours, the sacrifice, and angst.

Small businesses are fighting for their lives, and grass-roots volunteer efforts, along with town agencies, are rallying to their side. Social and civic organizations, houses of worship, are investing creative and kinetic energy to keep people engaged.

Even our geography provides a safety option—at least as long as it doesn’t snow. Thanks to years of advocacy and action, there is plenty of open space—conservation land, fields and parks, and trails where Covid-19 fades into memory—at least until another masked walker approaches.

We have learned to better understand the things that irritated us. Traffic jams. Aircraft. Late meetings of boards and committees. Will they return? If they don’t, will it mean someone else is suffering—or that alternatives turned out to be practical. (Willson Park, you are safe for now.)

There’s no Turkey Trot. There’s no football with its tailgating, marching band, and mini-reunions. Most family gatherings will be minimal or virtual.

But it’s still Thanksgiving, and there are still many reasons to celebrate.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763
Click this link to learn more about The Bedford Citizen’s first community reporter.


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