A friend emailed to say something about a Christmas card that was a cartoon version of Salvador Dali’s “Persistence of Memory.” The artist replaced the melting clocks with melting Christmas trees and a fluffy Santa cap in the design. “the Persistence of Merry” was so indicative of 2020. It was Christmassy, yet simultaneously sad. If you are alive today and have a brain that functions, it’s also pitifully realistic. Every holiday marking a normal year has melted away to something memorable, yet not the real thing. She said it gave her a laugh and that was refreshing.

Having something to laugh about during a pandemic is important. Keeping the seriousness of the virus uppermost in our minds needs to be first, but a smile now and again keeps us sane. Research online helps reassure us this will pass, and a new normal will begin. And yes, we will laugh and pocket this year away in that comfy shirt we wore “‘cuz nobody’s going to see us anyhow. “

“Cartoons” from 1918 through 1920 were sad and gut-wrenching. Life changed dramatically as news was carried via newspapers, magazines and radio throughout the world. It affected businesses, education, consumers, politics and life in general. Artists, architects, auto designers, fashion and tool-makers turned decorative elements into sleek and easily-cleaned new versions of all things old (read that pre-pandemic). Artists changed how they did their work: some left the busy-ness of the big city, some changed their subject matter. All shifted into a slower, less-cluttered point to turn out “mature work.” (Read that: “what they are known for doing, or their oeuvre.”)

How does a pandemic cause change and what changes take place? How can anyone look at what’s happening now and find anything in it to laugh about? Familiarity is a starter. Think about all that’s occurred since March. We had a presidential election and all the campaigning leading up to Nov. 3. We’ve had any number of people hired and fired on a national level who were supposed to explain COVID-19 and speak about vaccines. We had some pretty bad riots and killings across the country. We had travel curtailed, stores closed, schools shuttered and church doors blocked.

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Amid all that, amid the tragedy of COVID-19 deaths, there have been and are some bright moments. Neighbors helping neighbors: mowing a housebound neighbor’s grass, shopping for groceries, or running errands for them ... many people have come out to help others. That improves community connections, and yes, that’s a very good thing.

When businesses shut down, a new way of getting services has to open or people starve. Shopping services have to open up. That means communication jobs open, ordering services and remote shoppers have to be in place. It means fewer trips out for the consumer but a little more costly for delivery or pick-up services. It does mean more jobs, and food gets delivered.

We are not driving as much and that means less carbon emissions. So cleaner air is a side effect. That’s a good thing. In some parts of the world, satellites are picking up historically clear views of entire continents. Clean air is a valuable plus.

Our front-line workers are appreciated more. Yes, their level of stress has been increased and no, that’s not good for them, but because they are there, the general public is protected. Who are they? First and foremost, our medical experts are frontline during this pandemic. Without them we’d be in far worse shape ... or dead. The people who deliver and pick up: truck drivers. They get our trash, take it away and properly dispose of it so additional tragedies are reduced. The people who deliver mail, who bring our packages, who pick up our mail from the post office, who deliver food to our homes. All are on the front line. Our firefighters, law enforcements, civil and military personnel, educators, all are in front taking risks for us.

We have opportunities (if we have internet connections) to visit cultural places. For example, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam: You can tour the museum for free. It’s one of many available to visit remotely.

If we can hold on through the year, by spring life will be different, and hopefully, there will be better news in all accounts. Staying positive boosts your immune system. Find something to smile about. It will be your gift to yourself now and in the year to come.

If anyone has an item for this column, please contact Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.