It’s only one tiny part of the strangeness of our times that the cover theme of this month’s issue is Arenas and Stadiums. This happened long before anyone could imagine the world’s stadiums standing empty. Yet, as we went to press we were in the dead center of cancellation news–venues and events, closing and canceling one after another, sometimes hours after confirming that the show would go on.
Mammoth Mountain has just closed, so no birthday skiing on Thursday. I’m not whining, it’s just a measure of how fast things change and how no matter what you think you’ve planned, no matter how small or large, it might not—probably won’t—happen. In the case of my personal cancellation, the actual faces of my long-time Mammoth community friends came sharply into view. Their jobs disappeared, literally overnight. That’s what matters.
In the news today, as I write this, airport workers at some of the nation’s airports are having to spin up into “health screeners” for thousands of American travelers who are massing at their doorstep trying to get home. As someone who has worked on international jobsites and wrangled those unexpected and relatively insignificant emergencies, I can imagine the people who are no doubt rising up to lead—you know the ones. They’re the people who are making something, anything, work, improvising around bad guidance from the suits, managing, making mistakes, soldiering on, even as scared and angry people are all up in their faces–without masks. A couple of days ago they didn’t even know they would be doing this. No one asked them for “buy in.” So a bunch of them are heroes. And every person who is bearing this anxiety by being a good traveler is also a hero.
Repeat that scenario for every public-facing exchange. How we have so taken each other for granted! The people who provide us with services and healthcare, the people who gather with us to worship, or play, or work–did I really thank and appreciate them, and am I part of the solution now? Sucks that it takes a crisis to notice, But now, what is needed from me?
In some way, even as we face our own uncertainties and impacted businesses, can we contribute and even create? I’m trying to help my beloved yoga studio figure out virtual sessions, just to distract me from other fears and losses. It’s a small thing—except to my yoga teachers and their rent. So right now, someone needs each of us, and our expertise, someone needs us to be calm if we have that luxury. It’s mentally healthy in the short term to keep contributing. Maybe in some small way we’re building the future where we get to come back together with new ideas, maybe stronger for our losses, certainly more enthusiastic for our opportunities to interact.
The reality of shuttered stadiums, arenas, and theaters, and the experience of social distancing is potentially one of the most powerful cases for community any of us will ever see.