If you google the word pandemic, the first definition that appears is a “disease prevalent over a whole country or the world” (Oxford). Perhaps some of us think of the first three letters and the last two: PAN-IC. Yes, like it or not, the word panic is in the word pandemic.
Upon further inspection, however, we find that the word ‘pandemic’ is derived from the mid-17th century Greek word ‘pandemos,’ which means ‘all people.’ And we can see that this pandemic really is about “all people” in this community working together and choosing not to panic. Adversity is what makes a community stronger. And while we are currently six feet away from one another, this love, from afar, is catching.
I’ve found over the years, that there is a lot of power in positivity. And that perspective makes a huge difference. Positivity and a sense that we are all in this together has shown through locally in ways that are simply amazing. I share a few of my observations of those beacons of light in a time of turmoil.
Over the last few days, I have watched KCPS and the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice work with local organizations and volunteers to gather food so that every child in this county has access to breakfast and lunch. I’ve seen the smiles on those volunteers’ faces as they greet parents and hand out apples and oranges to toddlers.
As gatherings of all sorts were cancelled, our pastor, Gary Priddy from Rock Hall United Methodist Charge, and many other church leaders in Kent County, have started delivering Online services. While some might complain about not being able to sit in the sanctuary, it is amazing to see people from across the county worship together while streaming YouTube or Facebook Live in their living rooms.
Meanwhile, kids are out of school and parents have been juggling homeschooling and working from home. Teachers and seasoned homeschool moms and dads have jumped in to provide educational strategies, websites, and learning activities. At the same time, employers have been flexible to accommodate the needs of staff working remotely.
I’m one of those moms who has created a makeshift office in the corner of my bedroom. My living room, on the other hand, has turned into a playroom. Instead of stressing over packing lunches, washing school uniforms, and ushering children out the door by 7 am, I have enjoyed observing their little imaginations burst into action as more and more Amazon boxes turn into make-shift doll houses created by little people with unbrushed hair wearing Christmas pajamas.
I know there are those who are working many more hours than usual. The community has stepped up for those families as well—friends provide childcare so first responders can keep our community going. Neighbors check on neighbors, offering to drop food or maybe even a roll of toilet paper at the doorstep with a hand-written “I’m thinking of you” note.
One of the biggest concerns we have had is about the fate of the small businesses that make Chestertown and our other small towns unique. Residents on Chestertown Life and other pages have encouraged people to support local businesses. Barbara Esmonde, owner of Barbara’s on the Bay in Betterton reports that calls and emails to buy gift certificates and ask how they are doing have been “overwhelming,” leaving her “beyond grateful.”
Although some businesses have had to shutter, others have come up with creative solutions to stay open and serve their customers. Molly’s is offering delivery of convenience store items. Luisa’s and other restaurants in the area have a carry-out station set up. Chester River Pharmacy continues its door-to-door prescription deliveries, and the Bookplate will even drop off a good read on your front porch.
When this is over there are bound to be piles of unpaid bills, exhausted medical professionals, and children ready to fly the coop. But the feeling that WE are Kent County and that WE are stronger than any government shutdown will remain. The last time this country felt that type of togetherness was a generation ago after 9/11. I may be missing handshakes and hugs right now, but I am feeling more connected than ever to this place I call home. Positive thinking and a connected community really are greater than any pandemic. Kent County – we will overcome.
Elizabeth Greenwell, the Spy’s newest columnist, is the Town Manager in Betterton, MD where she lives with her husband and children. Prior to moving to Kent County, she taught special education for most of her career. When she’s not working or writing, she enjoys singing in the choir, painting, and putting her toes in the sand.