For the past three weeks, I have listened to the same song each night before bed.
In retrospect, it may have been prompted by a conversation with my children. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, I sat them down to talk about it. There’s no playbook for how to parent children during a novel virus outbreak, and the first thing I could think of was their mental health. I urged that, no matter what happens, they should always feel free to speak about how they are feeling. These unusual times – and the disconnection they require – will impact all of us, young and old. Suppressing emotions can only compound the harm. In the next breath, I asked that they think of others: remain mindful of how the crisis is impacting those less fortunate than us. As I remind them often, we are blessed. This crisis is no different. No matter how inconvenient social distancing may feel, others will suffer far greater consequences from COVID-19.
My daughter, 12, said: “Like the elderly.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“They will be scared,” she said. “And lonely.”
She is right.
We stand on the shoulders of the wisdom and work of the generations before us. For that, they deserve not just gratitude. But, our love. Our time.
One of the great gifts of John Prine is his compassion to grasp this, even at an early age. He was still in his early 20s when he wrote Hello in There, which warns of how loneliness can grow with age. Few songs offer more timely advice:
So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care,
Say, “Hello in there
While walking the dog walk this weekend, I encountered friends and neighbors gathering around the house of a widow, singing her Happy Birthday, as she threw air hugs to the crowd. In an empty house, a rare moment of connection on her 88th birthday.
Reach out. Engage your neighbors. Call your parents. Volunteer.
Say Hello in There.