Social distancing. Masking. COVID-19. Coronavirus.

Say those words aloud and watch anyone who hears you cringe.

More than two months after the first cases were reported in Pennsylvania, the weariness is visible on peoples’ faces.

And we’ve got plenty to put on the pile of our mental exhaustion.

We’ve worried excessively or panicked about catching a highly transmissible virus. Restaurants, and then other non-essential businesses, were ordered closed. Residents were ordered to stay at home unless they absolutely had to leave.

We were told to wear masks and stay six feet away from others.

Our grocery stores installed shields to protect cashiers, and our hospitals scrambled to make sure those who need care — for the virus or otherwise — were able to have their needs met.

Some workers transitioned to a full-time work-at-home schedule that has beyond blurred the difference between home life and office life.

Parents have become the equivalent of hall monitors to students at home, pushing them to stay on track with school work.

And teachers have been forced to adjust education methods on the fly. Some students have missed out on milestones, as the youngest among us were thrust into homeschooling. Many students have absorbed their parents’ concerns, consciously or unconsciously, since schools first shuttered March 13.

Yes, calling the past couple of months “stressful” is a trite understatement.

Things have changed.

And we all want them to go back to what they were. Right now.

Among the now oft-used phrases that have entered our lexicon is one that makes some cringe, but shouldn’t: “new normal.”

That phrase should bring each of us some hope, and it will, once we accept that things have changed, and may not revert to what they were for quite some time.

Going back to what was isn’t as simple as ripping off a Band-Aid and moving on like nothing happened. This virus is a global pandemic.

So, yes, things must change, and we must adjust to living our lives in different ways.

But we are a nation of innovators, and if this crisis has proven one thing, we are also a nation of helpers.

Agencies, organization, churches and communities across Fayette County have stepped up to collect and distribute food to those who are in need.

Local teachers have formed caravans to drive by students’ homes to remind them how much they care. Just last week a bus company in the Albert Gallatin Area School District arranged its buses to send senior students a message: “AG 2020.”

The State Theatre Center for the Arts in Uniontown has brought entertainment to us, even while shuttered, via its Facebook page.

Communities have banded together to ensure neighbors have what they need. They’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones virtually or offered well-wishes with drive-by parades.

Yes, we want our businesses open. Yes, we want to gather for celebrations.

But for many, the “new normal” has become an increased level of kindness and awareness for others’ needs.

It has become rediscovering how we can innovate and help.

And that is something we should all embrace.

Herald-Standard

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