VANDENHEEDE: Message of hope

Published 9:03 am Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Dan Vandenheede is a Niles city council member who coaches in Dowagiac. He can be contacted by email, or by phone, (269) 635-8458.

These are trying times to stay positive and have gratitude, but I believe we have much to be grateful for, and staying positive is a must. After mom died recently; my wife, Jodie, said it wouldn’t hurt so much if we didn’t love so much. It was a comforting thought that helped me recognize how much we have to be grateful for. We had lost our matriarch, but were fortunate to have had such a caring and compassionate woman who passed these characteristics and many more, on to her family.

In these uncertain and scary times, it is worth reflecting on how good we really have it in this country. How the inconveniences, and for some, lost income and value of investments, are relative to how good we have had it. In other words, it wouldn’t hurt so much if we hadn’t had it so good. I don’t at all mean to trivialize the financial and emotional strain so many in this country are facing. The hardship is real and will require all the support — financial and otherwise — we can muster as a country to right our collective ship. I am confident, however, that we can, and will, get through this.

A large part of what gives me confidence that we shall overcome this is that I have been a student and teacher of history for more than 30 years. Other than immigrants and refugees who came here fleeing war, poverty, crime and other perils unimaginable to us, there are few Americans who have lived through anything like this. But it is not unprecedented others have faced far more deprivation. The “Greatest Generation,” those who survived the Great Depression and World War II, are fast disappearing. What we can learn from them, and from history, is that we are tougher than we imagine, and we will get through this and be better for it.

One of the things that makes people great is the ability to come together in a time of stress and tragedy to help each other out — to recognize that we are all in this together, and so we must all do our part to insure the ones most affected have all the support we can give. As ideologically divided as our country has been recently, this is a time to put that aside and to all pull together and show our true compassion. There will be time after this is all over to look for underlying causes and what could have been done better. There will be finger pointing, and there will be lessons learned. Now is not that time. When the house is on fire, everyone needs to work together to put the fire out. We can look for — and argue about — what caused it later.

So, what can you do? Beyond the obvious precautions to protect yourselves and others, think about what others may be going through and help where you can.

• If you have a car, and you know others that don’t, offer a ride or to pick up essentials.

Donate blood. Blood drives have been shut down because of COVID-19 leading to a shortage, but there are centers taking donations trying to make up for the shortfall. You can find a place to donate here:

Reach out to family and friends. Check in on them to give support, especially the elderly or people who may be especially isolated.

Shop local. At this time Michigan is allowing restaurants to offer takeout and delivery — if you can afford to, support them — and tip well.

Share. If you have extra food — or toilet paper — stockpiled, share with those who need it.

If you are one of the many who find themselves with unplanned time off work and are fortunate enough to have what you need to get by, consider not just what you can do for others, but what you can do for yourself. Take the time to reflect on your life, what’s important and what you want to do.

Do you have anyone to thank? A note of gratitude helps not only the receiver, but the giver.

Do you have anyone to apologize to? Like a word of gratitude, a sincere apology helps both sides.

Have you been wishing you had more time to pursue a hobby? Learn a language? Read? Exercise? Now is your time.

Remember, we are all in this together. Let’s stay positive and do our best for ourselves and for each other.