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Natural Awakenings Tucson

COVID-19: Getting Through and Finding a Silver Lining

Aug 30, 2020 01:22PM ● By Meridith Little
Through interviews with people in Tucson and others with ties to the area, come compelling ideas and perspectives that bring us an opportunity to connect with our similarities and allow ourselves to be enlightened by the vast differences of our experiences. The news images of COVID-19 hospitalizations are haunting, yet the stories of recovery may lead us to believe in hope for a better tomorrow. We may embrace the idea of community and connection and say, “We are all in this together.” The truth is, we are all in the same storm, but we are in quite different boats.

Taking It Seriously
The “when” of taking the coronavirus seriously varies from one person to another. Some claim that they had the virus in December of 2019 and that their doctor treated them for the flu. For others, early January was when the first warning of COVID-19 began to sound. In mid-February, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show would draw many thousands of gem enthusiasts from the U.S. and around the world. This year’s attendance was somewhat lighter and masked faces could be seen throughout the venues. The masks looked a bit strange, but the show went on as usual.
Stacia Reeves, 51, a youthful, spirited high school teacher who easily demonstrates her passion for her students and their education, became aware of the virus in January. Lending a hand, she helps her husband set up for the gem show. She followed the news and warnings from the World Health Organization. For Reeves, the biggest impact of the coronavirus hit home when spring break ended and the schools closed. No one could enter the school buildings. Every student’s locker held their belongings. Every teacher’s classroom was set up for classes to begin.
“All I keep thinking about was, how will we get our stuff? Every item a teacher needs to teach was locked in the school. No one could access anything. And then we were expected to begin to teach on Zoom,” says Reeves. “There are many moving parts in the process to begin teaching students at home. Not every student has a computer or access to a computer. For students without computers, study packets had to be developed and the students needed to pick them up—from a car, since no one could go into a building. Not every student has a car, or the transportation to get to a point of distribution.”
After reading about the dilemmas of educators and students, coming to understanding the far-reaching impact of the pandemic comes into clearer focus. Education, the one-time backbone of a strong society, had little news coverage at that time.
Tucsonan Ben Bradford, 45, a married father of three, took the coronavirus seriously when he saw the news coverage of the cruise ships having troubles. “Plus, I had helped organize a conference for early March that would bring 500 people from all over the U.S. to the La Paloma Resort.” According to Bradford, three people wore a mask and he was one of them. Two weeks after the conference, two attendees died of the virus. Bradford and his family took every safety and sanitizing precaution from the beginning of the pandemic. He took his children out of school. As manager of 90 employees, he began to set them up to work from home, remaining several steps ahead of his corporate office in California. Then just on the heels of the employees working from home, the California corporate headquarters shut down its Tucson branch.
In March, Tucsonan Nik Groesser, 55, a jack of many trades and current gig worker for shopping cart, and his husband were visiting a relative in Paris, when they began to have serious concerns about getting home. President Trump had placed a travel ban on incoming travelers. They took a fast flight out of Paris and landed at the LAX airport. “It was the most exposed and unsafe I have ever felt,” says Groesser. “The CDC screening took six hours. There were thousands of travelers from all over the world. No masks, no social distancing. It was like the lines at Disneyland.”
It is one thing to read about the COVID-19 situations that others face, but it is quite alarming being slammed into the situation and all its trappings.
Sheila Claw-Starr, 51, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, shares an apartment with her son, Ojigawehnotah, 19, (OJ) for short. It was OJ’s girlfriend who brought the news to them. “We did not have many changes in our daily lives. We live simply,” says Claw-Starr. “I have been doing more crafts and making masks for anyone who needs one.” In her soft and quiet manner, she tells about her experience as a spiritual healer and guide. Because of her openness, people who know Claw-Starr from sweat lodges and rituals call and talk with her. “I stay available for anyone who wants to talk about where they are with the virus. They may not want to use drugs or alcohol to escape the situation,” she says. “I tell them ‘I will pray for you’ and I let them know what I will be doing, when and where I will pray, and they can visualize me praying for them.”
Not everyone gets slammed by the upset of the pandemic. Recall the first time wearing a mask and going to the grocery store. Remember the precautions that were taken and are now the standard of everyday business practice?
Phoenix resident Nicole Eccelston, 37, a gym-going, health conscious, married mother of five, says, “What hits one person like the sniffles, hits another person as pneumonia.” Eccelston and her husband, who both work from home, guided the family in an easy transition to stay home. “We did not impose crazy schedules on the kids. They could relax and complete their schoolwork at their own pace. We let them have more screen time,” explains Eccelston. “I do not know what to believe about the virus. There is so much information out there. I believe we are making the right choices.”
Eccelston’s work as cosmetologist, specializing in eyelash extensions, puts her face to face with women. “As a cosmetologist, I have a theory. I think women contract COVID-19 easier than men because women touch their face and hair a lot more than men do.”

Silver Linings
Nearly every person interviewed was able to see a silver lining in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Racheal Kundrat, 36, of Tucson, was a stay-at-home mom to her five-year-old son Dylan. Until the pandemic, Kundrat’s partner would easily work 50- to 60-hour weeks. Now due to COVID-19, Kundrat says, “He is home with Dylan much of the time and we would not have done that ourselves. It is kind of a miracle.”
Laney Little, 37, a socially motivated, hardworking and dedicated environmentalist, experienced the madness of the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S. firsthand. A Whole Foods employee, on the first weekend of lockdown, she was immersed with her coworkers, in the mad rush of customers stocking up on food and supplies. It was mayhem as Little watched the number of customers swell to Thanksgiving size and the store, stocked for normal weekend sales, become depleted. No manager was able to guide and direct the staff for safety.
“After work I received a text from a coworker that one of our staff had COVID-19. I decided to take time off,” says Little. For her, a silver lining is the personal growth in being able to say “no” and to practicing the challenging art of setting boundaries. At home she uses what is on hand and plans for trips out of the house.
To contrast the experiences of the different boats in which we are sailing through the pandemic is to give clarity to diversity. These are not for judgements, but for acceptance. On the Navajo reservation where Claw-Starr lives, getting water is a daily challenge. The water must be hauled in by truck in barrels. There is no government or agency providing the truck nor the barrels, which prohibits the necessary and frequent hand washing recommended by the CDC. The cell reception is poor at best, meaning little communication with family members off the reservation. Claw-Starr has lost nearly 12 family members since January.
In Tucson, Bradford and his family are a closely knit unit. They take traditions seriously as a part of their family building experiences and memories. For them, giving up their summer month in San Diego was more than unpleasant. They planned and prepared, made different and difficult choices and navigated the safety precautions for the family to have a modified San Diego trip.
Reeves sees the bright opportunity in teaching from Zoom that would not have been possible in the classroom. “I can teach to the student, not to the SATS. Students will have projects that they want to work with and learn from,” she says.
This time of the global pandemic is being referred to as a “global spiritual retreat”. Oprah has asked that we “Do not waste this crisis. What are you learning and how will you use what you have learned?” We continue to be taken out of our automatic behaviors and new behaviors are establishing themselves in us. The new normal is taking shape right now. We are all in this together.

Meridith Little is a credentialed Minister with Universal Life Church and author of the cookbook Taming Tofu. She has traveled to more than 40 countries and currently spends her time as an artist and real estate professional with Tierra Antigua Referral. Connect at [email protected].