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Opinion: We can fight this pandemic with our rural roots of common sense


We’ve all heard the core instructions on how to combat the spread of COVID-19: wash your hands for 20 seconds, regularly clean touched surfaces, use the vampire cough, don’t touch your face, and keep a safe distance from other people. However, simply avoiding the virus is not enough in these trying times. While some have reacted with fear by stockpiling and locking themselves away from the rest of the world with the news blaring 24/7, there are many more beneficial ways to respond. By returning to our roots, we can overcome this temporary struggle with long-lasting solutions.

Sarah Oerther

One major way we can practice our rural values is simply by taking a daily walk outdoors. Walking, especially down a nice natural path, can do wonders for each of us. While still practicing social distancing, a walk or run can relieve the loneliness that remaining inside day after day can produce. Likewise, walking provides physical activity to strengthen bones and muscle, improve blood pressure and flow, and enhance coordination. It also serves as a great start for mental health by improving mood and combating depression and anxiety. 

As a nurse, I can’t think of a better way to practice physical and mental health during this time than regularly embracing nature and taking a break from all the screens and distractions that are eager to fill our extra time at home. But this is only the first step in how we can put our rural Missouri values to work.

Taking care of our neighbors is also a vital part of this pandemic. Beyond avoiding others to prevent sharing germs, we must also take intentional effort to notice those in need in our communities. Perhaps there is someone near your home living alone. Do they have the supplies they need to be self-sufficient? A simple checkup via phone or a safe six feet away can improve — and save — lives.

Meanwhile, most of our kids are out of school for an unknown amount of time and Easter is right around the corner. Some parents may feel obligated to fill this countdown with loads of Easter crafts, egg hunts, and egg decorating to keep their children entertained. You can do all of these things as you shelter in place if they make you happy.

But, as my grandmother would have said: You don’t have to.

Grandma Lamkin helped me realize that the kids are surprisingly glad just to be at home. Let your children play board games or card games they never have time to experience in the midst of their extra-curricular schedules and homework. Let your kids drag out every doll and action figure to set up elaborate storylines. Let your kids build blanket forts in the living room. My grandmother helped me realize kids will be just as happy and entertained if you give them uninterrupted playtime as they would be spending every waking minute creating something adorable you saw on Pinterest.

Grandma always told me happiness is contagious. She used to remind me that we can actually affect the outlook of those around us just by maintaining a positive attitude. How much can we laugh off when things didn’t go exactly according to plan for another week? How much can we determine not to let the pressure to get everything right steal our own enjoyment of Easter and the rest of Spring? For me, once I let go of the need to be in control of the uncontrollable, I laughed more.