Keep communities safe, healthy and strong
April 7, 2020
I am one of the least likely people to participate in what I normally call “Rah-Rah” stuff — those spirit-lifting, come-together, team-building exercises to rally the crowd — so this op-ed is going to come as a shock to everyone who knows me.
The people of Havre and Hill County have done an amazing job of coming together during this pandemic crisis, supporting one another and not only finding the good in others, but also expressing gratitude publicly — all while still following the COVID-19 pandemic health guidelines we are currently living under. I can’t say enough how much that has made me proud to live here.
For a brief time many years ago I worked for Hill County Health Department and went to public information officer and incident trainings. Though almost all of the training focused on emergency events that hit and are over with in hours, days or weeks, I do recall some information that applies to our current situation.
One trainer made a comment that sometimes events go on for an extended period, and in those cases morale of the people becomes very important 1) to help people stay mentally healthy enough to keep stress manageable and panic at bay, 2) to help people want to continue complying with life-saving emergency rules and regulations for the duration of the incident, and 3) to keep them wanting to participate in the well-being of their neighbors and success of their community.
It absolutely helps to get through the tough times if we know we have people by our side to help us.
So, I’m asking that community partners, special interest groups and local organizations put their minds together to come up with ideas to keep people’s spirits up, make participating in the stay-at-home rules fun, and help groups, businesses and organizations who have become temporarily sidelined know that they can still contribute in many ways, as they normally would every day.
Already, Native American and Indigenous communities in the U.S. and Canada have rallied to post videos of themselves and family they are in isolation with dancing, to offer prayer and celebrate their cultures. They have created Facebook pages, such as Social Distance Powwow and Quarantine Dance Specials 2020, to post the videos in central locations where people in Indian communities and elsewhere can see them and share in the experience. They have even found ways to hold online powwows to keep one another connected virtually in a time when they can’t do it physically.
Some communities around the world have designated a time to step outside to cheer their health care workers, and videos of this happening in major cities such as New York and Atlanta are particularly moving. International recording artists have held mini, isolation concerts on various social platforms, with many of the videos being posted on YouTube. A whole series of those concerts have been benefits for the World Health Organization which is working to help treat people in the pandemic and to help find a cure for COVID-19.
Among the activities in Havre, sewists have come together to make masks and gowns for our local health care workers. Former state legislator Bob Bergren not only bought a large supply of high-demand toilet paper and stood out in the snow giving it away to anyone in need, he also started the Facebook page Hi-Line Helping Hands to help connect people — to pass along messages or say they have a need or tell others they have something to offer.
Havreites using the Helping Hands page organized a bear hunt of sorts, asking people to put stuffed bears in their windows so parents could drive their kids around town to find the bears. The Havre Daily News was contacted over the weekend by people working to organize a similar Easter egg hunt. And one little boy, whose mom put out the request on the page, had a birthday celebration with people driving by to honk, wave, holler “happy birthday” and hand out treats from their vehicles, including his teacher who stopped to sing.
My challenge to Havre, Hill County and even our neighbors is to keep this momentum going.
I don’t mean to make light of the situation, which is unprecedented in history. It is a huge inconvenience to some families and a grave danger in others. Some people are putting their health and lives on the line, from first responders to the store clerks. It has knocked some dreams back, brought an end to others and irrevocably changed some lives. It means financial distress for some families, and may mean the loss of or, at best, the long recovery of some people’s businesses. And I think it’s fair to say that every one of us has some degree of stress.
My challenge is for you to use your imaginations to think of ways that we can support one another now because that will get us through this troubled time and carry us through to a stronger community on the other side. Think of ways you or even your shuttered business can participate in this new version of community we are living in for the near future, think of activities you are missing and reimagine how all this can to be done at a distance or done online.
I have some suggestions to get everyone started thinking, but I’m sure you all can come up with more and better ideas than these:
• How about a cruise of antique, rat rod, restored, remodeled vehicles through the neighborhoods.
• Local beauticians can judge a Worst Isolation Home-hairdo photo contest.
• Hill County has lots of rural folks who are carrying on with the business of keeping America fed, some of them, including 4-H club members can show us through photos and videos what they’re doing on the farm or ranch, or explain and demonstrate their projects.
• Someone with a mobile sound system can help host neighborhood dance-it-out-in-your-yard events around town. Maybe participants can post videos of their dancing, and even have a contest. Or maybe we can have an Isolation Simon Says in neighborhood yards.
• What about some kind of online virtual prom for the high school kids? How about funny home videos of spring sports being practiced in isolation?
• Someone can host a Most Elaborate/Beautiful/Inventive/Funny Face Mask contest.
• How about a Decorated Yard of the Week or Best Shuttered-Business Window Display?
• Can a local artist do an online art lesson or demonstration? What about people demonstrating their hobbies, or cooking?
• And to the chambers of commerce, how are you documenting this time in our history?
I am but a small cog in the wheel here at the Havre Daily, but I’m willing to say with assurance that the newspaper, along with local radio stations and the local papers in all our communities, will gladly do their part in getting the word out about these activities, printing and airing news stories, posting photos and videos on their websites, and aiding in any way they can to help our communities stay safe, healthy and strong.