Publisher’s Letter: Changing Societal Norms

By Blaine Howerton, Publisher
North Forty News

Who can dispute that in a matter of days the mandated behaviors of our society and that of societies around the world have changed dramatically?

Perhaps the more important question is: When this pandemic runs its course and it’s safe once again to go out in public and enjoy recreational activities that bring us in close contact with other people, how will we have changed as a nation? How will we have changed as people?

Will we automatically return to walking around in public with our heads down on our phones, oblivious to those around us? Will we still fail to know the names of the neighbors who live right next door? Will we be as isolated as people as we voluntarily were before this crisis was upon us?

When we had absolute freedom to move around and engage with others so many of us voluntarily chose to live in a very small universe. That might be due in part to the fact that more and more has been demanded of American workers including working at all hours with no limit or designation as to what is true “downtime?” And what is “our time?”

Well before this recent startling chain of events, in 2017 the French government instituted a law to protect life-work balance. The law gives French employees the right to ignore work-related email that arrives after office hours, legislating protection of their downtime.

Once stay-at-home edicts have been lifted, we may begin to appreciate the wider and richer lives we could have if we just made an effort to get to know people we see on a regular basis — the neighbor whose face we know so well. And the supermarket cashier we see on a regular basis who wears a name pin that perhaps we’ve never bothered to look at — appreciating the person before you, and not just their function — especially in today’s times when we owe them a debt of gratitude for continuing to “show up” in close contact with the public because we need them.

With attached garages where a car is filled in privacy, you may never notice a neighbor loading up gear for an activity you, yourself enjoy — it’s possible they are an avid golfer or fly fisherman, or enjoy book clubs, or taking cooking classes, just like you — and you never knew it.

Making new friends takes time and effort — even then, sometimes two people hit it off and sometimes they don’t. But when you reach out to create a connection, there’s the chance that something quite wonderful will happen — and that’s not happenstance — YOU created it!

We’re posing the question: Once all COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, and life returns to the “new normal” what will you have observed about your everyday life? And what will you choose to do differently?

We hope you’ll make an effort to become more connected to your community and the people around you. Research has shown in The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner that being more socially connected can add many healthy years to your life. And we’re all for that!

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Blaine Howerton

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