There are times in our personal lives that change us profoundly. We don’t go back to “normal” after them. We move forward changed forever. Losing my nephew Brendon changed me profoundly. Things would never be the way they were. My husband’s military service changed our family. His retirement changed us. We didn’t “reintegrate,” we “readjusted.” We learned to adapt to a reality that is now different. This happens in big and small ways all the time.

Our country is the same. We never went back to “normal” after 9/11. How could we? None of us who watched on our TV’s that day (all of us) were ever quite the same. It changed the way we travel. It propelled us (right or wrong, doesn’t matter in this discussion) into never ending wars that we don’t seem to be able to get out of. It changed politics.

School shootings have changed the way schools operate. It has changed our KIDS in ways we can’t even measure. You can’t erase those shootings and go back to a “normal” time when they didn’t happen.

These are just two examples of the many, many ways we as a society have changed. The civil rights movement, the assassination of a President, the tech revolution, the election of certain Presidents, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires…. all of these events change us as a country.

The idea of “getting back to normal” is one that we simply can’t achieve. We can’t, as a nation, live through those things unscathed. And the reality is that what was “normal” for some, was not “good.” This pandemic is spotlighting some very big issues our country has, in a glaring way. Domestic violence, homelessness, poverty, workers rights, healthcare, politics… the list goes on and on.

As human beings, we may crave a return to “normal.” We may desperately want to go back to a time when, good or bad, we knew what to expect next. We could plan. We could look to the future.

This pandemic is a defining moment in our lives, like it or not. Things will be different after this. For me, I will never look at a crowd of people the same way. I will probably forever have 3 weeks of groceries and personal items in my home, just in case. I will always “wonder” when I cough.

As a society, things will be different. I’m hopeful that some of the changes will be positive. That we will all be more mindful of the important role of cashiers, food service personnel, delivery drivers, nurses, first responders, etc. That our mindfulness will translate into making sure these workers and professionals are compensated accordingly.

I’m hopeful that this will shift our collective thinking about healthcare even further. That when healthcare is a right and not a privilege, we are all better off. If when folks are sick they can see a doctor, take time off of work… that is good for all of us.

I’m hopeful that we will forever view our educators in a different light and demand they be given more resources and higher pay.

I’m hopeful that we will look at how our environment is, in certain places, thriving in the absence of human activity… and recognize that humans DO have an impact on our planet and that we CAN make changes to ensure it is healthy and thriving for future generations.

I’m hopeful that we will be more mindful of the fact that what we do individually impacts all of us, good or bad. That while our personal freedoms are so important, we must not allow them to make us forget that our actions affect our neighbors.

We aren’t going back to “normal.” In just a few short weeks, so much has already changed. The impact on human lives has been tragic. The impact on our economy has left so many in dire straits. We all just try to do our very best to get through all of this, day by day.

It is my hope that years from now when we look back on all of this and remember those we lost, the ways in which our country suffered… we can also see ways in which we, as a country, decided that “normal” would be replaced with “better.”

Oh, how I hope.