Many Americans, except those with young children, like my daughter Miranda, are experiencing a quiet and stillness in a normally loud and busy life.

Quiet can feel oppressive, in fact it seems many of us live with a kind of fear of being alone — with ourselves. I think it’s why we seek so much diversion; TV, cable news, movies, video games to name a few. These things fill in the silence that might make us confront something we’d rather not.

Silence is often a place where fear grows and this current extraordinary time offers plenty of fears, mostly of the unknown. The virus could be on any surface and the mere breath of another person could prove deadly.

We don’t like the unknown.

We like patterns and routines, even when we find them boring and mind numbing. We need structure and to feel as if we are in control, even though deep down somewhere, we know we never really are.

This pandemic takes away all our control.

It leaves many of us vulnerable to financial ruin and more frightening, it can take away our loved ones to suffer and perhaps to die alone or it might take our own life.

It ruins well-thought out plans, vacations, weddings and family milestones, and it makes us wonder if our country can stand up under this added strain.

Will there be a bed (and a ventilator) if we or a loved one needs one? Will our health care workers be able to stand the physical and emotional strain of what’s being asked of them, especially when they don’t have the things they need to do their jobs and to protect themselves and their families?

And then there are the schizophrenic ever-changing messages coming from an unstable and incompetent national leadership.

We need a calm steady voice in the storm. We need to be told the truth, straight up, without embellishment or lies.

Some of us can work from home which gives us a purpose and as in my own job, a way to also help keep the community we live in informed. It’s a service none of us who are in this position take lightly.

Here’s a question we should all ask ourselves: can this quiet serve some constructive purpose? And not in just organizing and cleaning and sorting, but in diving into that deep quiet within us to see if we can find a way to live a better life.

It’s also a good time to think about what we can do for others, even at a (social) distance. Sometimes a phone call, a text or a prayer fill a void not only in our own lives, but mean more than we can know to someone else.

And despite all the worry and the unknown, can the silence bring a source of contentment and peace?

For that, you have only to look outside.

One of the things I am most grateful for in all this is that this event is unfolding just as spring is coming in.

New life abounds. The azaleas are in full bloom. My daffodils are mostly gone, but their memory during those first days of fear remains with me. They are the forerunners of better days.

The dogwoods outside my front door is in full bloom. The trees delicate flower brings with it a promise that I believe in, that I hold onto in the darkness of 3 a.m.

The grass is green and my goats are playful, head butting each other as they prance and play in the backyard. The dogs run and roll until they are as green as grass from all the pollen.

And the hummingbirds are back!

Need I say more?

The world is moving on, oblivious to our society’s torture. In fact, satellite images show how the atmosphere improved, almost like the planet taking a deep, clean breath, as factories across the world make a brief stop, powerless against the onslaught of the hidden enemy.

It’s clear this planet and most of the creatures in it don’t need us at all, in fact would be better if we weren’t here to scar the land, pollute the skies and kill the trees and wildlife.

It’s a good time to reflect on just how small we are in the scheme of things, just how easy it is, after all, to bring us low.

Stopping the whirring hamster wheel of the mind to focus on the moment, on the hidden beauty of just being is a worshipful thing.

Realizing how small and powerless we are makes us strong, makes us look inward and upward for the strength we need to get back up and start again.

It is good to realize this, we should do it more often without the calamity of a pandemic or a Sept. 11 to force us to.

It is in these times that if I make the effort, I can find God more accessible, not because he was remote in those busy days, but because I was. You don’t need a congregation or a building or a choir to find the quiet voice that calls to you. You need only to be silent.

It’s also a good time to be grateful. No matter how bad things are, there is always something to be grateful for.

We are facing an unprecedented threat, but facing it together/apart, with medical advances beyond the dreams of previous eras. We can be thankful that technology allows us to continue with a lot of our lives virtually and completely unimaginable just a few year ago. We can be grateful for that. And I am, every time I see my granddaughters faces and hear their laughs, I am so so grateful, even though it may be coming from my phone or laptop.

To me, the most precious thing we have is hope, the hope that suffering and failure and death are not final. It does not relieve us of the fear, misery and agony of the moment but it lets us focus on the light on the horizon.

This too shall pass.

Please, be kind to one another. We all have a part to play and the most important part may be to listen to the medical professionals and just stay home. The biggest gift we can give our fellow man is to be still and let the storm pass over us.

Fear abounds, but so do love and kindness. No infection, no matter how powerful, can rob us of either of the latter.

Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for The Madison County Journal.

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