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Ingenuity: Appreciating creativity during COVID-19 pandemic


As you watch the world during this COVID-19 pandemic, do you ever feel as though you are on a roller coaster and being buffeted about by centripetal forces?

You see people protesting, sometimes with guns, and without masks, worried that their rights might be or are being stripped from them. Others are worried, scared, about their health and are navigating far from others.

It’s the yin and yang of our lives being buffeted about out of fear of losing rights, our health and everything in between. But, as we are pulled and pushed, there are glimpses and examples of brilliance and ingenuity that percolate out of our humanity. There are countless examples of compassion and caring.

Some of those stories are shared in this week’s newspaper:

•The commitment of Andrew and Lynn Houy to raise money for the March of Dimes on a virtual walk.

•How neighbors Dr. Ralph Losey and Jack Kirkby joined forces so Midwest Medical Center has protective gowns for its staff.

•A gift card program created by the Galena Area Chamber of Commerce to help member employees.

•How the Galena High School drama club and scholastic bowl teams each held end-of-the-year banquets–virtually.

•How River Ridge High School Spanish teacher Karla Nicholas combined two of her passions–teaching and biking–to honor and make extra-special the end-of-the-year project for those seniors taking her fourth-year Spanish class.

These stories ought to warm your heart.

Tracy Bauer, Midwest Medical Center CEO, can attest to the generosity of others. The hospital is able to give masks to anyone entering the hospital in need of services thanks to so many donations of masks. This sharing of time and talent shines through the uncertainty of these times.

It’s about creating a sense of community.

Creating this sense of community is one of the interesting aspects of this pandemic and its stay-in-place orders.

Most of us are social. We enjoy “rubbing shoulders” with each other whether it’s at a ball game, community activity, a bar or restaurant or some business function. We’ve put on hold our traditional social outlets.

It’s interesting how we’ve adapted these social outlets or created new ones. How Zoom has become an integral part of so many lives is amazing. It seems to have surfaced in such a short period of time. . .from nothing to warp speed.

Laurie Mattas, Bill Gordon, Deb Cihak and I used to meet at a restaurant or Laurie’s house to speak Spanish for an hour. Now we meet weekly through Zoom. Bill likes to say “Zoomamos.”

We enjoy each other’s company and this is now our go-to method of staying connected.

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Since the pandemic started, Sarah and I have talked with our kids and their significant others with Zoom. Sunday nights at 6 p.m. is circled in red on our calendars for this conversation. It seems as though we’re more connected now.

My brother, Tom, and I, along with our spouses, are visiting with our dear, sweet mom with Zoom every other week. She lives at Prairie Ridge and is unable to have visitors. Tom and I are talking back and forth now more than ever.

Sarah and I have joined her sisters and assorted nieces and nephews on Zoom as well.

I find myself communicating more with friends in Chile. I’m concerned for their welfare just as they are for me.

“Cuidado. Cuidado. Cuidado,” they tell me over and over again. I tell them to be careful, too.

In a personal sense, this has become an opportunity to make connections with people all over the world. Several weeks ago, an invitation came from a friend to join a new Facebook affinity group, Social Distance Cycling Club, otherwise known as SDCC. Created at the start of the pandemic, SDCC, now has over 6,700 members who live all over the world.

It’s almost like a utopia.

The members have a common passion: biking. They visit the page to share their experiences and photos from their solo or family bike rides or to read about others’ rides. The tone and tenor of the conversation has been downright friendly and engaging. Rude and crude language has been remarkably absent.

According to Fred Zelt, SDCC creator, the only sad emotions and angry comments came part and parcel with the announcement of RAGBRAI’s cancellation. I was sad, too.

Since its creation there have been 6,958 posts, 36,170 comments and 300,922 reactions. And the state with the largest number of members is: Iowa.

I’ve come across people with whom I have mutual friends. A woman in eastern Iowa is friends with Sara Millhouse. A guy in the Chicago suburbs is a friend of Matt Blaum.

Others have shared photos and commentary of bike rides in the United Kingdom, areas with which I’m familiar. There are posts from other places near and far with which I am unfamiliar. It all makes the world feel a bit smaller and more friendly.

And through this, I’ve learned these bikers have a passion for naming their bikes. A week ago, Karla Nicholas asked this question, “My bike’s name is Florence. What’s yours?”

The post netted 278 comments and 281 likes and hearts. And oh, the names: Doug the Pug, Mootsie, Thin Mint, Shadow, Thwomp and the list continues. My bikes are Santiago and Combarbalá, a nod to my Chilean connections.

by P. Carter Newton,