While we’re home: The Berkshires in a time of coronavirus (BTW column)

In a few days, the world has changed. The streets are quiet. Colleges, libraries, courts, museums, public spaces have closed. Some restaurants are offering takeout and trying to arrange for delivery on short notice. Some have shut their doors for now. This is the Berkshires in a time of coronavirus.

On all sides, I hear people saying we understand. Health and safety are paramount. People are afraid for the local economy, the doctors and nurses and staff at the hospital, the people working at local businesses who have had their jobs suspended, the artists and performers and small businesses.

And at the same time, people are talking to each other. I hear stories of generosity. College students organize to help friends who need places to stay, and small businesses look out for their staff. Schools pack lunches for kids, and parents share advice for homeschooling. And people say if you need help I’m here. Sometimes they make it a blanket promise to the world.

I think many of us want to do something to help. Many of us want something concrete we can do. We’re at home, and keeping a physical distance has become a responsibility. We are trying to create new temporary structures, set up the tent in the rainstorm and get dry. And then we begin to look around and think, what now?

We’re looking for information is a situation we have never seen. And we’re also looking for ways to think beyond the shock and do something real, for family, friends, the corner bookstore, ourselves … We’re looking for company. In a digital world, we have ways to talk together even now. I’ll do what I can. And if I can help you, I’m here.

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