What will endure

Story by Johnny Sain

Difficult times bring out both the best and worst of people.

That’s how the old saying goes. But you’d be hard pressed to find that dichotomy here, in the River Valley. Almost all I’ve seen is the best.

Sure, it’s easy to view your home filtered through the rosy tint of familiarity and a not-so-subtle tribalism — of course they’re good people. They’re my people.

But the hard objective truth of the matter is that the River Valley response to the coronavirus pandemic, even by the elevated standards of Southern hospitality, has been shockingly good.

It’s not just the COVID-19 Triage center, assembled and manned by dedicated and brave healthcare professionals. It’s not just the commitment to our local businesses, and those businesses’s turn-around commitment to the customer in the form of curbside and sometimes home deliveries.

It’s the smaller and more personal acts, the subtle and sublime nods toward a stronger, deeper, more caring sense of community. It’s the neighbor making grocery runs for three other households. It’s the offers to pick up prescriptions and other vital necessities. It’s honoring the request of healthcare officials and political leaders to maintain social distancing practices even though we dearly, painfully miss and crave the touch of our friends and family. It’s the video chats and phone calls that help us hold onto sanity. It’s the unseen but understood smiles under face masks.

All of these qualities, these characteristics of small town Americana that some think exist only as myth in the idealized version of our home, are very real. No, not everyone around here is a character out of Mayberry, and sometimes those qualities are smudged with the cynicism of our times. But they’re still here, in all of their warmth, just under the layer of grime. They’re shining through now, during this, the most uncertain time of our lives.

For nearly 15 years, ABOUT the River Valley magazine has served as a time stamp for the region. This issue — from the digital-only format to the columns to the selection of our features to the encouraging, yet, unprecedented photos for the “10 things ABOUT…” back page — offer a freeze-frame of life in the River Valley during the coronavirus pandemic.

So much will be different when this is over. Whenever and however that happens is anyone’s guess. But what endures is the essence of who we are and who we’ve always been. That much is crystal clear.