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We are all in this together; let the local positive stories shine through: Editorial

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Our experiences over the next weeks and months will be unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes as the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to test our strength as individuals and as a community.

Have you found a “new normal”? How disrupted is your life right now? How worried are you about the future?

Uncertainties loom over us because seeing a clear path to a resolution of the pandemic is not easy. When will it all end? Will we ever be normal again? Will my loved ones be safe? Will I be safe? When will restrictions be lifted? Will I have a job? When will there be a vaccine? Which experts do we believe? Even a question that seemed laughable two months ago can be serious: Can I get toilet paper?

In normal circumstances, we would seek comfort from each other with a hug or a handshake. We would gather for Easter or Passover with loved ones and enjoy the traditions that are part of our lives. Generations would gather together — something that is now ill-advised.

These aren’t normal times. We all continue to adjust to the reality of an epidemic in which everything and everyone we come in contact with could be carrying the virus.

New phrases have been ingrained in our heads in a short time. Social distancing. Flattening the curve. “Stay calm, stay home and stay safe.”

The guidelines for slowing the spread are second nature to many of us: Frequently wash your hands and don’t touch your face. Maintain a safe distance (6 feet) from others. Avoid contact with high-risk individuals. Wear a mask in public places.

Not everyone is responding with compassion or common sense, however. We hear too many stories of people not taking this pandemic seriously enough, flouting the basic guidelines set down to stop the spread. Hoarding toilet paper and other supplies. For those people, finding a balance between the needs of the one and needs of the many can be a struggle even in the best of times.

As our lives are being turned upside down, how will our behavior be judged by future generations?

Let’s not forget that a crisis also brings out the very best in people. It can range from the heroic efforts of frontline health care workers and first-responders to the simplest act of thanking someone you’re grateful to and telling them why.

You can look at some of the stories we have featured in recent editions and at pressandjournal.com: Young people taking chalk in hand to honor first-responders and spreading cheerful messages across Middletown. Everyday people making masks to help protect us when we need it. Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works making hand sanitizer. Three pickup trucks full of food and useful items being collected from Royalton residents to support the Middletown Area Interfaith Council Food Pantry. The Middletown Volunteer Fire Department carrying the Easter Bunny through town to help make the weekend a little bit brighter. A local Chinese restaurant owner donating hand sanitizer to police. Hops and Barleys and Roberto’s teaming up to give away pizza and subs for those affected by the pandemic.

Keep telling us about these acts of kindness and we will do our best to tell the stories behind them.

There might not be many reasons to feel cheerful right now. But think about all the people quietly doing what they can to make a difference.

You can do your part. Groceries delivered to the door of a shut-in or a phone chat with an isolated neighbor is far more beneficial than thousands of smiley Facebook emojis. The food banks could use a hand. You can give blood. Find a need and help to fill it. Pennsylvania first lady Frances Wolf reminded Pennsylvanians last week that volunteer efforts to distribute meals and other life-sustaining services in Pennsylvania remain an essential activity, even with a statewide stay-at-home order in place until April 30.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest crisis this country has seen in recent history. Americans have a history of revealing hidden reserves of strength in times of trouble and this crisis is a challenge that can only be met if we work together within our communities. When things are at their worst and we’re all suffering together is often the moment we realize just how much we have in common. And how much we truly need each other.

We are all in this together.