Our View: Uncertain Times


Living with uncertainty is stressful. Life always has its share of unknowns; emergencies, unforeseen situations, sudden changes that are out of our control. But what's happening now is extraordinary, relatable only to measures taken during World War II, though the comparison is not exact. Then, the country was pulling together against a common enemy and was not divided along partisan lines. That's not the case today, but although there are stark ideological divides, even when it comes to a virus that is decidedly nonpartisan, most people seem motivated to stick to health and safety guidelines, if for no other reason than to get this over with and go back to more normal times.

But what “the new normal” will look like is the subject of intense debate. With drops in the numbers of coronavirus cases now being seen in some former hot spots, people are anxious to resume business as usual. That's not likely to happen in the short or even medium term; gatherings of people at meetings, restaurants or elsewhere will continue to be anathema to many for some time to come. There will be pain as the economy recovers in short stages, and in the near term, there will continue to be hardship; the International Monetary Fund predicts “extreme uncertainty” regarding the world's economic situation. Locally, the summer season is just around the corner, but we don't know if people will travel, if they'll go to beaches, if they'll venture into restaurants and shops. We just don't know for sure. At a minimum, if will be a slow, subdued season.

At uncertain times, people seek to control what they can. That's the theory behind the run on toilet paper. But for those who are in more dire straits, facing more weeks, maybe even months, without a paycheck or with reduced income, with no childcare, we at least know that there is help available to shave some of the edge off the uncertainty. While healthcare, emergency, grocery and other essential workers have gotten the recognition they deserve, there are many nonprofit organizations that are a real lifeline for many residents. The list is long, encompassing help with housing, food, utility bills, medication and on and on. Other folks are stepping up to create brand new entities in response to the crisis, such as the newly established Chatham Coronavirus Impact Fund. Holes in the social safety net seem to be getting plugged quickly. This helps reduce a bit of the uncertainty for those in need and also fulfills a deep human need for community and empathy. We may not be able to physically reach out and touch our neighbors right now, but there are other ways to make connections.

That's something we're certain about.