It’s Saturday at 1 p.m. The sun is shining and it is a balmy 72 degrees.
I’m sitting alone under a majestic maple tree in the midst of a gigantic open field dotted with dandelions in Cleveland Metroparks Acacia Reservation in Lyndhurst.
There’s a mom and dad just ahead, strolling their baby down the paved pathway while their toddler pedals along on her training wheels close behind.
A minute ago, a goldfinch landed on the branch above me and I saw a young couple wearing headphones stretching their limbs before they started their jog around the pond.
It’s a gorgeous day.
My family lives in West Park, but my daughter wanted to venture to the east side of town today so she could meet her two besties for a socially distanced picnic.
On our way here, we got stuck in a traffic jam on I-480, the first such slowdown I’ve encountered since March.
We were caught up in the bottleneck behind the construction arrows that squeezed all the vehicles to the middle of the highway—pick-up trucks headed to Lake Erie with paddleboards and kayaks strapped to their roofs and minivans headed to the trails with bicycles cinched on rear racks.
Once at the Metroparks, it is wonderful to hear the birds, feel the breeze, smell the lilacs, and enjoy nature again.
I’m glad to be here.
I’m also petrified about what the future might hold for all of these people who have burst forth from home quarantine and left their face masks behind.
I’m even more scared for the people they encounter.
Ohio’s bars and restaurants were allowed to open with proper socially distancing protocol in place last weekend, but—judging by the pictures I’ve seen all over social media—it doesn’t appear that everyone is following that directive.
I completely understand the desire to get back to the old way of doing things. I want to do the same.
We can’t all stay locked in our homes indefinitely.
We need the economy to be humming along and for people to be gainfully employed. But to do that safely and well, we all have to pitch in and heed the advice of health officials.
We have to act responsibly because we have responsibility for each other.
That’s what it means to live in a society.
When we don’t wear face masks and allow space between us and employ vigorous hygiene, we are literally jeopardizing other people’s lives.
From the time I was a little girl, I wanted to be a pediatrician. I was a sophomore at John Carroll University when I was finally old enough to begin academic coursework in earnest toward that goal.
Part of the pre-med track for me included enrolling in a practicum that incorporated hands-on work at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.
So, I hopped aboard an RTA bus a few times a week and made my way from University Heights to University Circle, where I spent time in the units trailing the professionals and getting to know the young patients and their families.
During that time, I had a sobering realization: Sometimes children get sick. Really, really sick. Sometimes, they even die.
You could chalk it up to youthful naiveté the fact that that notion never really had dawned on me before. Or you could label it as what it really was: Willful ignorance.
I hadn’t thought about kids, adolescents, and young adults being vulnerable in life-threatening ways before, because I didn’t have to think about it.
I was just fine in my bubble, believing that only elderly and “sickly” people had to contend with their mortality.
Those kinds of people didn’t look like me, act like me, or live like me or think like me. So why should I worry about them?
Obviously, I didn’t become a pediatrician. I couldn’t hack it.
But the people who do have the constitutions to tend to the sick and dying and nurse people back to heath are giving us some advice about how we can help them in their important work.
We can do our best not to infect other people.
Even those front-line heroes are not invincible. When we don’t wear masks, maintain social distancing recommendations, and practice excellent hygiene, we’re putting other people at risk.
And those “other people” are our doctors and nurses and friends and neighbors and parents and siblings and even our kids.
Go out to eat, Ohio. Soak up the Midwest spring sunshine. Grab a seat on a restaurant patio and enjoy a drink with friends.
But remember that the people serving you have neighbors and friends, and children too.
The sun just dipped a bit behind a cloud here in Lyndhurst and a large group of people not wearing masks and standing shoulder-to-shoulder has descended upon the trail.
It’s been fun to be outside in the park today.
But I think I’m going to be spending a lot more time in my own backyard.