An acquaintance in his early 70s, someone not known for making outlandish comments one way or the other, stood in the driveway, hands on his hips and doing three times the required social distancing from the rest of us, and said, in a matter-of-fact fashion, “Nothing’s ever going to be quite the same in this country.”


Possibly also in the world, but certainly in this country, was his inference.


That is a growing sentiment. I’ve heard it – you’ve heard it – quite a bit, and it makes total sense. Just as with other seismic events in history, such as the 9-11 attacks, John Kennedy’s assassination and World War II, we’ve never been quite the same going forward. Like it or not, we have to change. We’ve been forced to do so.


When that happens this time, perhaps in a different manner than anything we’ve ever seen after the way in which this coronavirus has gutted our culture and brought us to a screeching halt, literally and figuratively, will the new and resulting normal, which everyone believes will be just the old normal revisited and reinvented, seem normal at all? Will it ever seem normal again?


Or will it be that we’ve spent so much time morphing into this current normal, that anything else will appear to us to be strange?


Routines. They are how we run our lives. It’s a normalcy – it’s a plan, it’s a schedule, it’s a list of appointments and to-dos – that we strive for, and when we achieve it, we heave a sigh of relief and feel so much better. Our lives now have the requisite structure again. There are checks and balances. We’re on the right track.


As such, we can proceed.


We’ve had to do that here in the last month – and then some. It hasn’t been easy, though there have been some slivers of brightness.


There are no rush hours anymore, or rushing around at any time of the day, actually. We have been forced to slow down. “Stopping and smelling the roses” is more than just a saying. We’re actually doing it. It’s now a way of life – this new life.


We’ve finally met our neighbors, and our neighbor’s neighbors, and those neighbor’s neighbors, and so on and so forth. It wasn’t long before we finally met just about everyone on the street, at least within shouting distance, which, again, with this new social distancing necessity, has become a lifeskill.


And, if the truth be told, we tend to like most, if not just about all, of these people. They’re good people we would be proud to consider friends.


So, then, the next time we’re in a little bit of a bind and need a hand with something, a favor, or, better yet, those people need a favor from us, we’ll both feel more comfortable about asking. It’s called being neighborly. Perhaps you’ve seen that term in history books.


Family meals are back in vogue once more. We all used to grab something as we headed out the door at all hours of the day and night while following schedules that were so divergent from one another, and made us, too, so divergent from one another. Now that we’re all on the same schedule – or the lack thereof – we get hungry at the same times, so we sit down across, and around, the table from one another and actually talk, even have conversations – sometimes prolonged, stimulating conversations. It’s so good, in fact, that we forget our phones are setting there staring at us, begging for attention. Instead, we’re giving someone – not something – that attention.


Certainly, we need, as soon as is absolutely possible, to get rid of this virus and return to full health, first physically and then economically. That goes without saying.


But, at the same time, do you also want to return to all of your former ways, with the rushing here, there and everywhere, purposely socially distancing yourself from everyone because we want nothing to do with anybody other than ourselves, and being ambidextrous again at the dinner table, a device in one hand and our meal in another, oblivious to anything breathing?


Do you really, truly want that?


No, I don’t either.


If things are going to be different – and we know they are – then we have to be different, too. The new normal will be anything but the normal we’ve been used to, and we need to embrace it for the benefit of everyone – everyone! – involved.


That guy in my driveway was really on to something.