Man, what to say?

I know I have never felt so many things, like: so sorry for a cashier, so appreciative of health workers, such a pang in the chest for a random elderly woman, wide-eyed and on oxygen loading up her grocery cart.

Most of all, I’ve never felt so uncertain, so very uncertain.

I’m sure you are, too. The uncertainty seems like an invisible, evil twin brother to the invisible menace: COVID-19, which sounds like some really bad alternative band name to me. I would boo that band so hard right now. Get off the stage!

I took my daughter to The Journal office Sunday night, because I have given up on our home printer. (I boo my printer and it boos back with its confounding little orange light.) She wanted to print some things for school. We made that familiar drive on Hwy. 98 into town, but it seemed so odd.

The place was the same, but our inner barometric pressure had shifted so dramatically and rapidly that we were dizzy in some unsettling way.

The light and shadows felt as if there was this ominous presence with us. In the office, my daughter saw headlights passing by on Hwy. 29, which threw a blink of change across everything in the dark, front room, where she had walked to pick up several printed pages. A dispatcher’s voice boomed on the scanner, which was turned too loud against the silent night, just a routine call. But the combination of lights, public safety talk and static got to her. “Can we go? It’s creepy in here,” she said.

We walked through darkness back to the car. I backed up in front of Al Stone’s office. There was no one around, not at all. I’ve always kind of liked the calm of Danielsville at the courthouse square when all business is done. I have so often pulled out of that lot with the windows down on a pleasant spring afternoon or evening and felt pleased to head home, thinking life is OK.

“It all feels so different,” my daughter said.

“It does,” I said. “Not Danielsville tonight. More like Surrealville.”

These days feel like someone is pelting every head with a hail storm. In a way, I’m dropping my share of ice from the sky, too, because I’m part of “the media” and much of the information I have to pass along isn’t so cheerful. This story certainly isn’t happy, not at all — not for you, not for me.

Of course, we need to stay apart literally right now, but we also need to spread good information, and we need to spread kindness, too. We all need both of those things. I am pleased that our publishers dropped our online paywall for now, though I know this organization will ultimately die if it’s not supported financially by paying readers. Nevertheless, now is not the time for that consideration. There are bigger matters at hand. This is a true crisis. We need to pull together in whatever way we can. We’ll get through this, but it’s not going to be easy, and it will take our best selves, not our worst selves to push us to a better day.

I often save things down as potential column ideas or simply as tidbits — quotes, articles, links — that might interest me later.

I copied and pasted the following comment on Facebook from somewhere. I don’t know how to attribute this. I don’t know where I saw it, but it hardly matters today, because we are tied together in ways we need to see. I think this is a beautiful statement and sentiment. It rings so true to me. I hope it does to you, too.

“Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones. But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal. A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said."

So true. Remember this. I will.

And be well, be safe and be kind to one another. In Surrealville, we all need heavy doses of kindness, all of us.

Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal. He can be reached at


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