Here’s a backward way toward hope

A year ago, today, was the day our university began it’s multi-campus shut down. That’s nine campuses, more than 100,000 students and at least two or three professionals, besides, spread out across an entire big state. It was a Wednesday, the Wednesday before spring break and they said everyone was going home and spring break would be two weeks and the situation would be re-assessed along the way.

And, look, a lot of us aren’t ready for retrospectives. I know I’m not interested in it just now, but I just want to say this one piece. A year ago, tomorrow, was my last day on campus for a while. I went in that evening to watch the sports guys wrap it up. Their sports director did a little monologue and he held his last meeting and there were tears. Students were graduating and realizing that it was very likely going to be not at all how they imagined. Well, what has been since, right?

Last March, right away, the entire IU system went to work on handling the most immediate tasks and planning a safer future. I had the opportunity to be a very, very small part of some of listening in to a slice of a portion of some of those plans as they pertained to my corner of things. It was fascinating. It was informative. It was frustrating. And, taken as a whole, there’s no mistaking it: Indiana University put every single one of their experts and their hardest working people on the job of doing this right.

Still, not everyone is back on campus, but we’re headed the right direction. I’ve been back full time since February and three and four days a week in the fall. The campus generally has a slow summer feel to it, and that’s been by design. Meanwhile, statewide, cases and hospitalizations are down. Vaccine uptake is increasing. IU is scheduling an in-person graduation for students in May and a fall term that’s more familiar than unusual.

Did her experts and staff work tirelessly to make the best of this? You’ve no idea. Did some of the top minds in their infectious disease and public safety fields go above and beyond for a full year? They won’t sing songs about those people, but they should. Did the university step up in ways big and small? The university distributed 290,000 masks at no cost. They built two labs to process their own Covid tests, up to 50,000 a week. We did everything but socially distance the storied buildings.

There were hiccups, I’m sure. Universities don’t pivot on a dime, and maybe no one realized until this past year how much that happens in giant operations is attributed to inertial motion. But what IU did is singularly impressive. This isn’t a retrospective, but it’s worth acknowledging that one thing. The university took care of her own.

And, somehow, they let me do programs like this …

I’m pushing 70 of those now. And it’s getting a tiny bit cheerier. Oh! Sweet hope!

And this speech from the president came out today, too. So petty of the White House trying to steal my thunder. But that’s OK. We’ll let them in this instance.

I also saw the saddest, sweetest note today. One of our former students, who is now on air in west Texas, got her first vaccine shot today, a year, almost to the day that her father passed away from Covid. What must that have been like for her? (She already had super powers, though.)

But this is what I’m really excited about.

We are one year into this and we are finally talking about the underprivileged and the rural communities. This state is sending out mobile vaccine units. Companies that are in the smallest towns you’ve never heard of are talking about getting in this fight. It took a year, but on the other hand, it only took a year. (It took less time. It took those places watching the big cities burn and then seeing the embers coming into their neighborhoods, and they started thinking about where their sleeves were in relation to their wrists and elbows.) In under a year, and we’re getting to the far flung places.

When I was in the third grade I developed chicken pox at my grandparents’ house in north Alabama. My grandmother, having raised tiny human beings before, suspected that’s what it was, anyway. And she took me to the pharmacy, the only medical concern in easy reach. The pharmacist there, non-plussed as he was by being asked to diagnose people who walked into his store, confirmed it and gave us the lotion, told us to stay away from anyone else and sent us on our way. That was three-plus decades ago. Last year an aunt and uncle got a Covid diagnosis at that same pharmacy. The closest hospital, where my aunt spent several days, is a 45-minute drive away on a good day. And that’s easy, compared to some of these places. Their little part of the world is hardly detached from the rest of us, but it can sure feel like it if you needed to see someone for health care, to say nothing of a specialist.

That we are already talking about these rural places at all, that medical experts and businesses are trying to figure this out, is a good thing. That different sectors of the economy are searching for a way to add more distribution points so that the people thought about the least can be addressed just like anyone else is a good development. Hope is where you place it. And don’t you agree we could use as much of that as we could get?

There’s a reason Shandy Dearth talked in our podcast about getting a vaccine so grandparents can safely hug their grandchildren again. Hope is where you place it.

In the studio for sports shows tonight. Tried a little something different for the gif. Who knows how this will end up.

The shows will end up just fine. They’re under good direction and I enjoy getting to watch them all work. And you can enjoy these particular episodes online tomorrow. I’ll share them here, I’m sure.

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