“Don’t worry. You’ll be all right. Something good is going to come out of this.”—Andy Andrews, best-selling novelist, motivational speaker, and consultant quoting his father’s advice to him as a child during a thunderstorm. From the first edition of Andrews’ Storms of Perfection book series.
I remember when the news of a virus infecting hundreds of thousands and killing multiple thousands struck fear in the hearts of American families. The anxiety over a highly contagious virus stressed distancing and caused closings of businesses, schools, city swimming pools, meetings and movie theaters. Even forced churches to close moving ministers to use radio stations for delivering sermons of hope about better days ahead.
Evidence was little to none as to how it was spread. The best guess was via human contact or hand-to-mouth contact. Lacking medical knowledge of the disease, it was proposed that proper and thorough hand washing was the best way to help control its spread.
In the beginning, some including doctors, discounted fear claiming the hype hurt efforts for medical treatments of “more serious” health threats. History’s lesson has always been that epidemic diseases loom more alarming than chronic diseases killing thousands over several years. The known is usually less frightening than the unknown, especially with diseases.
Fortunately, that virus I’m remembering was ultimately conquered. My memories of the fight to overcome polio include the school year of 1954-55 where my public schooling started in Crockett, Texas. Adjacent to the old two-story structure where first-grade classes began in the basement during the fall, a row of about a half dozen new classrooms opened following the Christmas holidays. One of those classrooms was where I completed the remainder of my first-grade year.
That classroom is also the background for two memories from the Spring of 1955. One was a mid-day tornado turning noonday skies to midnight darkness as violent winds whipped large trees around like saplings. Parents came to pick up children who were huddled sitting near a row of lockers behind the modernistic, free-standing, new-fangled green “blackboards.” Strong winds rocked the car as Dad drove toward home, and in no time at all, skies were again sunny.
The other memory is lining up single file to march from that same classroom across campus to the gymnasium where multiple lines of students snaking around the shiny basketball court floor were administered doses of what I would later learn was the polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk, American scientist and physician credited with helping end polio in the U.S.
History records that in 1954, 1.3 million children participated in a randomized, double-blind test of the Salk vaccine. Early in 1955, results were announced as 80-90-percent effective, and that same day, Salk’s vaccine was licensed by the government for immediate use. Something good followed that stormy period in time when the country was all but eradicated of a disease people lived in constant fear of contracting, or worse yet, one of their children falling victim.
While sitting at home last week as our country is again filled with fear from another virus infecting hundreds of thousands and killing multiple thousands, I recalled those childhood memories. Like then, we now face another highly contagious virus about which we know very little and for which we have no treatment or vaccine. Also like then, we are forced into distancing and enduring the closing of businesses, schools, movie theaters, meetings and churches.
However, I am confident that just like the sunshine following the tornado that had first graders hunkered behind a green blackboard decades ago amid the threat of an uncontrolled disease, sunshine and better days are just ahead. The advice Andrews’ father gave him decades ago, “Don’t worry. You’ll be all right,” is timeless.
If anything has changed since the 50s, it’s the preacher’s messages. Oh, they’re fortunately still diligently delivering reminders of keeping the faith that good things and better days that are just around the corner. But during today’s distancing, we’re enjoying those messages in full-color live streaming video via the internet.
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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune, the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.
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