Covid fatigue. As the months drag on, we can feel it setting in – in ourselves, in our home life, in the community. For many of us, the early weeks were reminiscent of rallying the home front during World War II. Our community embraced the spirit of Rosie the Riveter – We can do this! Many of us even planted victory gardens. But now, as the risk of community spread from the pandemic has persisted for more than six months with no national strategy for effective containment in sight, the sense of shared sacrifice is wearing thin. We are tired. Our economy is struggling. Our kids are home instead of in school even as we need to work. We are ready for this to be over, to have a sense of “normal.”
The past 15 years in Hillsborough have seen a tremendous blossoming of the town. Careful cultivation by entrepreneurs, town employees, volunteer residents, local leaders of all stripes, and a community with a zealous love for this place created a thriving downtown with an economic and cultural ripple effect throughout the community. We became a bustling small town—“Happening Hillsborough”—making the pages of national newspapers and “Best of” lists on the regular. That bustling, that recognition, that is the normal we fear losing.
Yet here we are, like small towns and big cities alike across the country, with numerous local businesses struggling for survival. We urgently need another round of federal assistance for small businesses.
The Senate must reconvene and adopt a version of the HEROES Act passed by the House of Representatives months ago that includes this desperately needed lifeline. In the meantime, our local establishments need to rely on us for support. The meals you buy from local restaurants put meals on their employees’ tables. The holiday gift you buy in September helps pay a retail shop’s rent in October. The art you support keeps visitors coming to see what else we have to offer. It is all connected.
Amid this pandemic and ensuing economic crisis, the other pandemic of systemic racism is impossible to ignore. People of color – especially Black people – are suffering disproportionately from the pandemic and faltering economy. The disproportionate impact of police violence on Black Americans and the rise in white vigilantism is a reminder that a community is not thriving unless everyone is included. The clarion call for building a society where everyone feels truly safe and cared for is one that must be answered. Hillsborough has our own painful past and present. We still have much work to do to create a community that truly values Black lives.
So how do get through this? We conquer COVID-19 fatigue by continuing to turn toward each other and toward our community, as Hillsborough has been doing for months. We must reinvigorate this intention – helping feed those who are food insecure, consider cutting rents if we are property owners, donate to the town water assistance fund, and #ShopLocal in Hillsborough. We answer the invitation to build a more equitable Hillsborough, now and into the future. We must love on each other, on our neighbors, on our local businesses, on our town.
My neighbor, Nancy, sent out an email to our neighborhood recently. She inquired with the assisted living facility on our street about whether the residents could use any outside cheer given the more isolated living conditions placed on them by Covid-19 safety precautions. This resulted in many of us being assigned a resident to whom we can send cards, flowers, or drawings to let them know we are out here, we are thinking about them. Nancy connected with us to help us connect with these elderly residents. Mr. Rogers once said, “The connections we make in the course of life – maybe that’s what heaven is.” Hillsborough is our own little slice of heaven, comprised of connections between people, between people and the land, between old and new, between us and the wider region. Wear your masks, wash your hands, keep that good physical distance, support our local economy, and in your own way, rally to strengthen these connections and keep our Hillsborough strong.