STEVE ASHMORE: I hope some things from our time apart won’t change

Steve Ashmore
Gannett Florida Blogger
Northwest Florida Daily News

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Repatriate (v) – To return or restore to the country of origin, allegiance, or citizenship. Usually we associate this word with an exchange of spies, diplomats, or in some cases political prisoners or hostages. It is, after all, more than just coming home. It’s about orientation and in some cases realignment. A new normal, even though the person has been there before.

So, aren’t you wondering about our repatriation? What will the new normal be like when we all come together again? Will we change for the better or simply go back to business as usual? Will we recognize that we work better when united or become a nation of hoarders? Which of our cultural norms will we keep and which will we abandon in favor of safety?

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We’ve been self-distancing for weeks now. Some brave souls still shake hands, some fist bump, and the elbow bump has even become more prominent. Many have heeded the advice to maintain 6 feet of separation in all matters, including greetings. The handshake dates back to the 5th century B.C. Originally a sign of peace to show that neither party was carrying weapons, it’s been a traditional greeting for centuries.

It seems that the more we maintain our distance, the more respectful we’ve become. It may just be my neighborhood, but people are outside more during this quarantine. Biking, jogging, walking the sidewalks with or without pets and children. Regardless of the mode of transportation, as we meet on the sidewalks one or the other yields and takes to the street to allow for the recommended separation of individuals. But even more important, as groups or individuals pass one another at a safe distance, there is more often than not an actual exchange of pleasantries. Genuine eye contact, a wave, and even a how do you do. If they’re close neighbors (as in they knew each other before the virus) they even stop to catch up.

I hope we recognize that hoarding doesn’t make sense and that tendency gets erased from our collective memories. I hope we don’t lose the handshake to this disease; it’s been around forever and it means too much to so many. And I hope that my neighbors aren’t the only ones who have recognized how important it is to maintain contact while being apart.

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