As we begin to emerge from well over a year in various degrees of isolation, the heavy toll taken on our social well-being is becoming clear. We have weathered the worst of this terrible storm physically, and our economy has not only been amazingly resilient, it is actually outpacing pre-COVID activity in many regards. But we are just now beginning to reckon with the social aspects of the pandemic. Have you been surprised at the awkwardness of meeting old friends and colleagues for the first time in person for over a year? Do we wear a mask, stand back, elbow bump, shake hands or give a big hug? Is it okay to ask whether they’ve been vaccinated, and is your answer to the question going to be okay with them?
Many of us lost loved ones during the pandemic, whether directly related to COVID or not. Some of us were infected by the virus, and some suffered greatly. Most of us didn’t suffer in those most extreme ways, but we’ve all suffered from separation – from elderly parents in assisted living, from relatives too far away to allow for travel, from work colleagues we’ve only seen in little digital boxes, from friends we used to work with in volunteer and community groups, even from our neighbors next door and down the street who we had to keep our distance from.
Our City of Tucker is unique in that it draws strength from togetherness. Friends, neighbors, families, organizations, churches; these are the lifeblood of Tucker (and I’m not just saying that; there are surveys and statistics that bear it out, but that’s a column for another time). It is in our nature, inherent to who we are, to gather and thrive off of one another.
The desire to safely gather again is why I rolled up my sleeve and got vaccinated at my first opportunity. So did my wife. Our daughters did, too. As a result, I now get to see my grandkids. I can go and stay with my 87 year-old father. We get to spend time with my mother-in-law who, while young-at-heart, is certainly in a high-risk category because of age.
And, more and more around Tucker, we as a community are healing in just the same way.
Last month, the good folks and volunteers of the Tucker Cruise-In dipped their collective toe in the water, returning the event to Main Street. It was their first such gathering – and the first full-scale event on Main Street – since 2019. Friends, neighbors, families…the lifeblood of Tucker back together. A few days later, Nancy Qarmout and her team got the gang back together for an in-person Farmers Market. And both were filled with people who may have been less concerned with the event itself than in just being with people.
There are more opportunities coming. This month we, as a city, kick off the 2021 TKR Summer of Fun. A couple hundred people will gather on June 4 for the Movie on Main. On July 3, we up the ante as a couple thousand people gather for our big fireworks show. We’ll finish it off in August with another great city-wide event as we gather for National Night Out.
We can do this because we continue to follow the science, as we have throughout the entire pandemic. When the science conflicted with itself, changed rapidly, or was just poorly communicated, we had to work hard, think hard, and make hard decisions about how to keep going. Now, more people are getting vaccinated. Fewer people are getting infected. But we still have to be vigilant against the disease, and respectful of each other. Some will wear masks to these events, some will take steps to keep their distance from those who don’t and some will choose to stay away. Some businesses will ask you to wear a mask or limit their occupancy. Our policies have been and will continue to be to allow as much freedom as the general welfare will allow, while respecting and leaving room for varying approaches and responses to the emergency.
I can see the light at the end of the tunnel – and now I can see it in the eyes and the smiles of so many of you. I hope you can, too. Please take care of yourself in the way most appropriate for you, and bear with your neighbors who are doing the same. And don’t be surprised if I offer a big hug when I see you on Main Street!