By Tia Will
When I woke up this morning, it was to the news of 207 COVID-19 cases in Yolo County, 23 deaths. In the USA, the corresponding numbers were 1.7million and 103K. There are an estimated 40 million jobless Americans, and 1 in 4 have applied for unemployment benefits.
Yet another black man has died in police custody resulting in rioting in Minneapolis and in smaller protests and clashes between protestors and police in multiple cities across the US.
And yet, in downtown Davis, I see a different picture for which I am very grateful. As in other years at graduation time, shops have placed window decorations congratulating our high school and college grads. Street corners display yellow ribbons and balloons in their honor.
There is a small parade of cars and trucks festooned with blue crepe paper and balloons. Horns blare cheerfully as they circuit downtown. Much like any other year, except against a very different backdrop.
A mother-daughter pair putting up balloons are masked and socially distancing. Masked merchants in front of their stores wave & call out their congratulations. Those cheering them on do so from a respectful distance from one other, quickly reaching for a mask if they cannot maintain an appropriate distance. One restaurant has designated waiting spaces with cheerful blue masking tape making a “novel hopscotch” pattern near their outside seating area. Congratulatory signs are juxtaposed against infographics and the latest Yolo County Health Department mandates and recommendations.
The overall spirit seems to be one of quiet appreciation for what we have, of encouragement for what the graduates have achieved, and of willingness to show respect and care for the safety of others. What I am not seeing is the casual disregard for the safety of others my son has described in similar settings in Sacramento where he estimates approximately 40% of people are adhering to the social distancing and face covering recommendations. I see a community where there is a willingness to tolerate minor inconvenience and to adopt reasonable accommodations for the well-being of all. I am proud of our community for its adaptation to this challenging time.
To the graduates, I send the usual congratulations and best wishes for their next life challenges.
I understand that many of their plans may have been upset far beyond the lack of large celebratory ceremonies and gatherings. Some colleges and universities may have adopted vastly different formats and protocols from what these graduates were expecting just a few short months ago. For those anticipating going straight to work, they will be entering a job market unlike any encountered during most of our lifetimes.
Because of these challenges, I also wish them a different gift for the future. Regardless of their intended work or educational path, I wish them resilience. I hope whatever their field of endeavor, we, as parents, teachers, mentors and members of the adult community have passed on to them, curiosity, and a flexibility of both mind and spirit that will allow them to adapt to a rapidly changing future. May they have the ability to see not only the difficulties, but also the opportunities presented by uncertainty which during these times may seem to have been our only constant. I hope they will not allow their lives to be circumscribed by narrow ideologies, but rather enriched by new challenges.
Congratulations and Best of Luck – Class of 2020