Dear Readers: Because of syndication scheduling, I write and submit my columns two weeks in advance of publication. Due to this time lag, the Q&A’s will not reflect the latest information about the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic we are currently facing.

As of this writing, Americans have started a program of social distancing, isolation, and in some cases quarantine. Concerts, sporting events, and public gatherings have all been canceled. Weddings, graduations, celebrations and vacations have been put on hold. Many workers have been furloughed or laid off. Children are home from school. The economy seems to be crashing. Families are sequestered in their homes, and people are anxious.

Every day in the very small town where I live, I put a basket full of oranges out on my front porch with a sign saying, “Help yourself!”

The parents who walk by with their young children send their kids up the sidewalk and onto the porch to pick out an orange. We wave to one another through the window.

The double-meaning of the wording on my sign was unintentional, but I like it. Yes, we all need to help ourselves. However, I am constantly reminded that — even in our isolation, we should not feel alone, and it is imperative that we help one another.

Most evenings, I stop at the small family-owned grocery store in our town. We neighbors keep a safe distance from one another. But the shelves are well-stocked, and the high school kids who bag the groceries will also carry them to your car. Without this store, people in my rural area would live in a food desert. I am filled with relief and gratitude to have access to good food.

The hospital workers, postal workers, first-responders, supply chain providers, teachers connecting with their young students remotely — I am so grateful that they are helping the rest of us to stay safe and healthy.

When you have so many externals stripped away, yes — it is the basics that quickly emerge as daily blessings: Good neighbors. Mostly reliable wireless service. Drive-thru Dunkin Donuts.

For me, visits to the gym 10 miles away have been replaced by solitary walks in the woods. In the harsh northern climate where I live, spring creeps up in agonizingly tiny steps. Yesterday, I saw the first signs of fiddlehead fern breaking through the forest floor.

I am reminded that, despite everything, spring will come; I hope I am not forced to wave at it through the window.

I reached out on social media, asking people to share stories about plans delayed or denied, and many people pointed toward our creativity and quirky humanity as a faint silver lining to burnish this seemingly dark time.

Some examples: Faced with an empty facility, workers at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago released the penguins to roam the halls — and filmed their adorable escapades, as they went on a “field trip” to meet other animals.

Jarret Krosoczka, author and illustrator of the wonderful graphic memoir “Hey, Kiddo” (2018, Graphix) is offering free daily online drawing tutorials for kids who are homebound (check his YouTube channel).

For foster youth who have aged-out of the foster care system, their college campus might be their only home. The organization Together We Rise is helping to arrange and pay for housing (togetherwerise.org).

Storytime from Space has videos of in-orbit astronauts reading inspiring stories for children. From space! Check storytimefromspace.com for videos to share.

And … many of us are learning to cut our own hair!





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