Education Matters: Shelter-in-place silver linings


Like most people, I’ve been thinking about the quarantine a lot these days. And like most people, I’m more than ready to be done with it.

But to be truthful, for some of us sheltering in place has not been all that difficult.

Staying home is mostly what I do anyway as a freelance education journalist.

Marsha Sutton
(File photo)

Now I can’t go to school board meetings any more, that’s true. Rather, I can, but no one is there, and I can just as easily watch the proceedings from the comfort of my home office while in my jammies.

For those of us with some degree of financial security, staying home is not a burden. And now I am more connected than ever before, with friends, neighbors and family, through the wonders of technology.

Every week I zoom-meet with my cousins who live in cities across the country, when before we were out of touch for years.

I can do my yoga, pilates and ballet at will, through the miracle of online classes. I’m cleaning out files, closets and recipe books – chores I’ve put off for years. And my husband’s honey-do list is nearly complete.

Our daughter has come home to live with us from L.A. and works remotely. She’s more productive here than at her L.A. facility where people can come by with greetings and interruptions, and where here she can walk outside for fresh air when she needs a break.

She’s here also because, well, this is where the food and laundry are. We have been able to spend weeks and weeks with her, and it’s been a joy to get reacquainted.

And our dog couldn’t be happier – she loves having someone home all the time.

I suppose I could say it’s a drag to clean my own house. But really, that’s a stretch if I’m searching that desperately for some sort of hardship to complain about.

For many of us who live independently and have the means to get by, this is nothing more than an inconvenience.

But there is another side. All we have to do is read the papers and watch the news to see that millions of Americans are struggling and afraid.

There are so many people who live paycheck to paycheck, who can’t find enough food to feed their families or money to pay the rent.

It’s heart-breaking for anyone sickened by coronavirus – and for anyone not permitted to visit aging parents in senior facilities, for businesses that can’t survive, and for so many out of work.

The worst has to be food insecurity, an unimaginable condition in a country with such abundance.

For those people in quarantine, this is much more than an inconvenience – for them this is a true catastrophe.

With complaints confined mostly to not being able to socialize, dine out, shop freely or play golf without masks, those of us fortunate enough not to have daily uncertainties and fears should put our annoyances in perspective.

In every disaster can be found a silver lining, however slim that might be.

It’s given us time to think about how we live our lives – what matters, what doesn’t matter that used to be important, who we are without our work, how we get out of this mess.

Empathy sometimes seems in short supply at the top but can be found in abundance in the trenches, where people are shopping for neighbors they never met before, making and distributing masks, running errands for those in need, and in many other ways exhibiting kind and thoughtful expressions of concern to those around them.

People are smiling and waving at each other as we pass on our walks – strangers sharing a common bond.

How long this spirit of friendship and care will last once the crisis has passed is unknown. People are fond of saying that things will never be the same. Hopefully, this feeling of community will be one of the “new normals.”

— Opinion columnist and Sr. Education Writer Marsha Sutton can be reached at