When this is over, we will build libraries.
Neighbours will not to one another as they pass quietly between the rows, pausing to pick up a title. The only sounds will be the flipping of pages, the clack of keyboards, an excited cry from the children’s section as a new favourite is discovered. We will have new libraries, we will expand the old ones, we will stuff them to bursting with books so we can regain the gentle pleasure of finding exactly the right title out of thousands.
When this is over, there will be potlucks and picnics.
Everyone who has been perfecting their gastronomic skills during lockdown will gather in kitchens and on patios, in picnics and at community halls, for weddings and baby showers and a dozen deferred birthdays complete with a dozen brightly-frosted cakes. Churches and temples and clubs and softball leagues will occupy adjacent picnic shelters, and their children will run together into a single, joyful mass, until the plates are laid out and it’s time to dish up the potato salad.
When this is over, we will clean the air.
The memory of the pause, when the smog lifted from a hundred cities, will linger, and if we miss nothing else, we will miss the clarity of the view of the mountains, the smell of recent rain, and the quiet that let us hear the birds. We will walk and cycle more, because those sustained us when we were otherwise confined to our homes.
Hands will need to be put to work, and building windmills and solar panels and electric cars and trucks and buses will be work that doesn’t just pay rent, but that fulfills a purpose.
When this is over, we will end homelessness.
Those idled hands can build housing, too, and we will do this knowing that during the pandemic, our country did extraordinary things. People reached out to help one another. People tightened their belts, and more than a few came closer to losing their homes than they would have liked. We will know that dignity means a roof, a full pantry, and no fear of losing either of them to fickle chance. And we will remember, too, that when it came to the crisis, we could provide those for everyone, and that there is nothing worthwhile we cannot accomplish if we move together.
When this is over, we will not forget.
We will not forget the people we lost. We will remember our elders, our peers, and those taken too young.
We will not forget the dreams that suffered, the small businesses lost, the jobs destroyed, the education deferred, the separations endured by families and friends.
We will remember it all – the anxiety and fear, the nights of bright stars, the steady march of grim numbers, the loneliness, the unexpected fellowship and moments of hope.
The memory of it all will drive us in the only direction worth going – forward.
The pandemic will be the stone in the shoe, the burr in the skin, the year that was lost. It will drive us.
When this is over, we will make a better world.