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Finding positives from the pandemic: 10 ways life might be better post-coronavirus

Leanne Howlett admires the frost encasing Duncan Gardens with her 19-month-old daughter Elsie Howlett at Manito Park on April 4. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

It’s difficult to see a potential silver lining from the devastating novel coronavirus pandemic that’s been wreaking havoc with the health of those around the world and ravaging the global economy. However, if we look ahead, there is potential good to come out of this unprecedented time.

Decreasing carbon footprint

The biggest upside to the coronavirus is that there is a tangible improvement in the environment. With much of the world in lockdown, the levels of nitrogen dioxide have decreased. The skies are blue in Delhi, India, for the first time in years. The air quality in China has improved dramatically. Perhaps the world can collectively cut the total greenhouse gas emissions since it is evident the environmental situation can be improved substantially with effort.

Family matters

Over the last few years, many families tended to see each other in passing. Time is precious. Children are running off to school, parents are staying late at work. Kids have to go to practice, games and recitals. Family dinners are often uncommon since everyone is on the go. However, the coronavirus has forced a lockdown that will one day, believe it or not, inspire family comedy flicks.

“I think people will appreciate family more now since we have to spend time with each other in such an unexpected way,” said Dr. Gregory Charlop, author of “Why Doctors Never Eat Breakfast: Wellness Tips to Reverse Aging, Treat Depression and Get a Good Night’s Sleep.” “We may never have this opportunity again. I have a feeling that we’re going to want to spend more time with each other after this all ends.”

All work and no play …

People are working more now, well, before the coronavirus hit, than ever. According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, 20% of mothers worked in 1960. Now 75% of moms are grinding it out full time. At least 134 countries have laws setting the maximum length of the workweek. The U.S. does not have a cap.

Now 85.9% of males and 66.5% of females work more than 40 hours per week. The U.S. remains the only industrialized country in the world with no legally mandated annual leave. Perhaps expected work hours will diminish.

We’ll be prepared

One of the byproducts of the coronavirus is depleted grocery shelves. We don’t have to build bomb shelters, but perhaps we can be better prepared for the next disaster. “I used to joke with my mother about the boxes of milk she had in her pantry,” Charlop said. “She would defend the boxes of milk by asking me what would happen if we ran out of milk.

“I told her if you run out, you can go to the supermarket or order it from Amazon. She was right. I was wrong. It’s a good idea to have food, water and medical supplies on hand in the event of a disaster. I live in California, where an earthquake can alter everything. Life is easier during a pandemic for those who are prepared.”

Improved relationships

A benefit of the coronavirus hiatus is that parents are becoming more involved with their children since they are essentially home schooling their progeny. “The upside of that is you develop a better understanding of your child as a student,” said Dr. Jacqueline Jones, author of “Medical Parenting: How to Navigate the Health, Wellness & Medical System With Your Child.”

“You fully understand their strengths and weaknesses as a pupil. You now know what the teacher knows. After the coronavirus ends, you are armed with knowledge, and you can foster what they’re good at, and you can help them with what they need to excel in subjects they struggle with. There are online resources that you can use. I really think parents getting to know their children academically will be huge.”

Savings to curb disaster

A penny saved is a penny earned is an old axiom from Benjamin Franklin that is on its way back. Some people are in a state of panic since they aren’t prepared financially for a setback.

“My father always encouraged me to put money aside,” Charlop said. “He made a point of spending less than what he made. If that meant buying a house that was not ideal, he would do that. The same for a car. He would buy the less-expensive car. Maybe after things get back to normal, maybe people will be more frugal. Maybe they won’t buy a computer that is beyond their means and live with a lesser computer. Maybe one of the benefits is that we’ll have a healthier approach to finances.”

Health care attitude improves

It’s common to complain about how long we sit in waiting rooms during doctor appointments or about the cost of medicine or co-pays. However, it’s time to appreciate health care professionals on the front line who are at risk while serving the masses.

“I hope people can see how dedicated the medical crews are around the country,” Jones said. “We are so fortunate to have the doctors and nurses in the hospitals in America. So many people take them for granted. They are doing a phenomenal job now, and that was so before the coronavirus. We take care of a good portion of the population. We all do what we can to make a difference.”

Dr. David Hill of the American Academy of Pediatrics concurs. “I’m proud to be part of the health care community. I hope that we will reconsider treating basic health care as a right and not a privilege and will emerge with a new appreciation of how caring for our most vulnerable citizens benefits us all.”

Appreciate the great outdoors

We all miss going to concerts, the movies and restaurants. However, we can all exercise in parks as long as we’re socially distant. Many are becoming reacquainted with the pleasures of the outside world.

“Prior to the coronavirus, how many people appreciated the beauty of a river or a lake?” Charlop said. “I’m hoping we hold on to that feeling of how great it is to get out and breathe fresh air by something that’s so natural and free. What if we spent more times in parks than malls? How much money would we save?”

Kill ’em with kindness

“Caremongering” is a word that didn’t exist before the coronavirus. I dare you to try it during your marathon Scrabble contests. It figures that a stereotypically kindhearted Canadian added the word to our lexicon. Valentina Harper from Toronto, which might be the epicenter of big-hearted behavior, started the caremongering movement. The altruism is driven by social media. Hashtags provide a permanent record of all the good happening across Canada. Some of the common acts of care that are happening are supermarket runs for those who are unable to leave their home. People are cooking meals for those in need and disseminating gift cards for the recently unemployed. Can the acts of generosity continue when the quarantine is lifted?

United we stand – divided we fall

America hasn’t been so divided since the Civil War. The division between the red and blue is obvious. Few politicos walk across the aisle in Washington, D.C., to accomplish anything. However, much like after 9/11, there is increased unity. We all have to be on the same page to snuff out the pandemic. Can the country emerge from the coronavirus with unity?

“I think we can get together after the coronavirus because the only way we can get back to normal is if we do come together,” Jones said. “I know not everybody likes Donald Trump. There’s a divide between the House and the Senate, but the only way we’re going to progress is if we reconnect.”