I am, at heart, an optimist. I tend to look for the good in people and generally believe that even when bad things happen, there is good to be found as well.
We see it time and again in our world and our own lives. I look back at the day my daughter, Lauren, was born. She was nearly a month overdue - transitions have never been her thing - and while we were at the hospital having an emergency c-section, an electrical fire started in the walls of my bedroom at home. My husband returned home later that day, to pick up some items to bring back to the hospital, to find it fully engulfed in flames. Had Lauren been born the week earlier, when we’d unsuccessfully tried to induce labor, she and I would have been home in that room when the fire started.
It was a stressful day for Don. He ended up in the back of an ambulance and being rushed to ICU with heart issues. He told me later he knew it was serious when my mom, Nurse Sandy, walked in the room, looked at his chart and said, “Don, you know we love you, right?” Sandra, a woman who had three out of four children at home and took the time to mop the kitchen floor while in labor “because it needed it;” a woman who made my brother wait until she was off the phone to take him to the hospital for a broken arm; a woman who warned us “the next one of you that has to have stitches, I’m putting them in!” was scared. That’s how he knew he was in trouble.
Fortunately, we all came out of that experience just fine. We had a lot of help. People we didn’t know offered us so much. We lived in a two-room condo in Helen, Ga. for seven weeks at no charge until we found a new home. People gave us clothes, household supplies, love and support. We received far more than what we could use. We told people we didn’t need anything more, but we gratefully accepted what they offered, knowing that it was important to them to be of help. A few months later, we had the opportunity to share our bounty when the Palm Sunday tornados ripped through north Georgia, leaving so many in our community with nothing. We had lots to share.
Cullman, of course, knows what that’s like. I’ve seen the photos and heard the stories of how neighbors helped neighbors recover from the devastating tornado in 2011. The events of that day and the ones that followed define who the people of Cullman are: helpers.
Our current situation is different, though, and I think more difficult, because we’re being asked to stay away from each other when our natural inclination is rush in and help each other. We want to lend a hand, not keep our distance.
But that’s what’s being asked of us, so that’s what we’ll do. I’d like to share with you, though, some ways in which you’re helping me, ways you may not be aware of.
First, there’s the obvious: you’re keeping your distance. The few times in recent weeks where I or anybody else in the newsroom have had to interview people in person, we’ve tried very hard to be mindful of social distancing. Not only do we not want to catch the disease, we certainly don’t want to contribute to its spread. For that reason, we’re working from home as much as possible and interviewing people by phone. Any photos we take are done from a distance. This isn’t the ideal way to report news, but it’s how we have to operate right now. The staff at The Cullman Times, from the front desk to the press room and everyone in between is an amazing team. We’re being very careful to look out after each other so we can continue to get the newspaper out every day.
Second, you’re keeping in touch with us. I love getting phone calls and emails from readers because I want to know what’s important to you. What do you want more of? Less? What are the stories we’re not covering that you wish we would? Send us your stories - tell us how you’re spending your time right now, and how you’re doing. Your words may help and inspire others.
Finally, many of you are out in your yards, working in your flower beds, making our neighborhoods a more beautiful place. To all my green-thumb neighbors, I want to say “thank you!” Every time I go on a walk, it’s like I’m getting to go on an amazing tour of gardens for free. I have a few favorites that I try to walk by a few times a week, just to see what’s new. I love the surprises discoveries: a flower where last week was just leaves, a tree suddenly come to life.
Spring isn’t necessarily my favorite time of the year — hello pollen and allergies! — but I love the reminder it provides. The reminder that there will be a renewal, that we’re not stuck in this situation forever.
It’s hard right now, I get it. It’s impossible to see unemployment numbers and not picture the faces of the people and families they represent. We watch the state health department’s dashboard and behind every number confirming a case, or worse, a death, is a person. Our economy, booming just a couple months ago, is reeling.
But I’m an optimist. I have hope and belief that we’re going to get through this. We’re going to find ways to help each other out, and we’re going to find surprises along the way that bring us joy.