COLUMN: We can all do more – until we can’t. Thank you for doing what you can.

Stressed? Anxious? Laid off? Working? Unhappy? Bored? Thanks for carrying on.

Thank you.

Thank you, obviously, to doctors and nurses and teachers and epidemiologists and farmers and truckers and grocery store workers and pharmacists and everyone else with the most essential of essential jobs right now.

But also, whoever you are, thank you. Not just for doing those irritating social-distancing things we’re all doing. Thank you for getting through this. Thank you for caring. Thank you for understanding. And thank you for forgiving.

This hasn’t been easy, obviously. For many, this has been a time of serious personal and familial tragedy. We can forget that, sometimes, because of the scale of what’s being done to try to minimize further tragedies. And because, for nearly everybody, this is hard in all the ways that you don’t need spelled out once again.

Mentally, physically, spiritually – in both the religious and non-religious sense – this has been draining.

Personally, my energy, optimism and happiness drained away over the last month and a half. You don’t need to hear the details, because they’re neither unique nor comparable to what many are going through. But living through history and a huge news story isn’t particularly fun, it turns out. It’s exhausting and full of anxiety.

There are so many reasons to be stressed out, worried and upset.

There is a line from a Nirvana song that resonates: “Just because you’re paranoid/Don’t mean they’re not after you.” Similarly, just because you’re stressed doesn’t mean that your anxiety and your worries are illogical or unnecessary.

Indeed, worrying – making worst-case contingency plans and seeing how much water has disappeared from that half-empty glass – can be helpful.

But. But sometimes it helps to just say thank you and to choose to believe that we’re doing the best we can.

People are imperfect. Our institutions, our corporations, and our societal structures are even more flawed. This moment exposes, like never before, those imperfections. And there is so much to worry about and struggle through that it can be hard to see everything that is working, everybody who is trying to do their part, everybody who is keeping it together, and everybody who is falling apart but still persevering.

We are saying thank you more than we usually do. We probably still aren’t saying it enough.

So: Thank you.

Thank you to those who gave their time to a reporter before all this and who may be inclined to think it was a waste. Thank you for understanding.

Thank you to employers who are doing their best to keep paying their workers and keep serving the public responsibly.

Thank you to unions, employee groups and workers themselves who stand up to protect those worried about paying their families’ bills.

Thank you to everyone who has put the community’s interest before their own. Thank you to workers who have told their bosses that they’d rather be laid off than risk spreading COVID-19. Thank you to entrepreneurs who have shuttered their cherished businesses, often earlier than necessary, with the same thoughts in mind.

Thank you to the people at the store who do that half-smile, eyebrows-raised thing during one of those COVID standoffs where both parties don’t want to invade the other’s space.

Thank you to everyone putting up with their stressed-out spouses.

Thank you for public servants re-arranging how our societies are ordered in just weeks or days.

Thank you to the parents finding ways to amuse balls of energy without the use of playgrounds.

Thanks, by the way, to all those people who design, install and pay for playgrounds. You may not be technically “essential” now. But trust a parent that your work is appreciated like never before.

And, while we’re here, thanks for all those who can’t work right now. The reason we miss you – and one of the big reasons this is all so hard – is because of how important you are. You help keep us sane.

You – lifeguards and soccer referees and bartenders and servers and hotel cleaners and park wardens and mall janitors and daycare workers and event organizers and florists – will bring us back together. You’re not working now, but thank you for biding your time. We’ll need you later.

We can all, always, do better. We can be more compassionate. More diligent. More self-aware. More isolated. Until we can’t.

Thank you for doing what you can.

Tyler Olsen is a reporter at The Abbotsford News

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