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An Open Letter to the Virus

Consider this the Corona’s mid-year review.

Dear Corona,

While it’s only been a few short months since we met, it feels like years. You’ve made things possible that were (and still are!) unimaginable to most. In that spirit, I felt moved to write you directly, as it’s unusual for someone, or something, to unite us globally, for good and/or bad reasons.

Too rarely in life do we take the time to acknowledge a body of work, especially when so much of it is done “behind the scenes”. It is in that spirit that I share these five things you have taught anyone who has been paying attention, even though I would describe you much like a ghost in the movies – you can’t be seen by the cast of characters, but your presence can be felt by pretty much all of us.

  1. Self care makes us better at whatever our jobs are. You have made that abundantly clear from the beginning. Thanks to you, more people are paying attention to whether or not they are getting enough sleep and activity, and if they are choosing foods that support their health. In all my years as a dietitian, I have not seen the interest or desire to change be so strong from so many.
  2. There is something to be said for cooking for yourself. From shopping to putting that meal on the table, it’s an option many didn’t consider before. It’s been exciting to see people trying new recipes, rediscovering family dishes, and being brave enough to deviate from specific ingredients, whether out of necessity or curiosity. You helped do that.
  3. Not enough people were properly washing their hands. We’ve all seen “that person” in a public restroom, leaving without going anywhere near the sink. Yuk. Thanks to you, virus, there are public service announcements on traditional and social media, by celebrities and scientists alike, wanting to help people get better at this incredibly simple yet powerful tool. Related, it appears there are more resources about cleaning in general. Yay!
  4. Saying thank you and paying attention matters. We have been fortunate to have affordable, abundant, safe, nutritious food (thank you, farmers, truck drivers, people in processing plants for all food groups, retailers, and everyone else involved in this process). You, virus, helped people push pause and start thanking those who have always done incredible work. Thank you for shining a light on unsung heroes in our lives. Let’s hope the gratitude continues for years to come, and not just on Thanksgiving.
  5. Spending time on what matters and living a culture of health and well-being versus just giving it lip service is essential. Words matter, and while I would have preferred a different word for workers than “essential” (because it implies others are non-essential, and that is not the intent of this well-intentioned sentiment), in this case, I deliberately chose it. I have heard a few people talking about how we shouldn’t strive to “go back to normal” because it just wasn’t good enough. We can be healthier, which could help contribute to our happiness and overall quality of life. Perhaps your unanticipated arrival and lengthy visit will help people feel comfortable in moving away from people, situations, and choices that just aren’t good enough anymore.

It’s been, shall we say, interesting, getting to know you. While your unexpected visit seems to be a long way off from over, my optimistic self will continue to search for the silver lining in the wisdom you offer, even in the unconventional way it has been “gifted” to us.

I hope people continue to strive for excellence in caring for themselves in this world that seemingly throws a curve ball to each decade/generation.

Be well, wash your hands, and thank you for finding the lessons in the moments we have right now.

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.