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Social Distancing Gives Us a Sporting Chance

March 27th, 2020 by dk

Maybe it’s good that we’re all taking a forced break from watching competitive sports. This coronavirus has given us an entirely different sort of March madness.

Sport divides outcomes equally into winners and losers. We like that. The players themselves are constantly mindful of the game itself — its skills, strategies, rules, integrity, history. Winning sits in a larger context for athletes, but not for most fans. Winning is all that matters, so the other side must lose.

Spectator sports distract us from what matters more. Namely, the greater good and collective action. Or, in this case, collective inaction. Oregonians are being told to shelter in place, leaving home only for essential activities.

Some would rather continue their life uninterrupted by the current threat. The governor’s plea was clear. Even if you don’t think you’re at risk, or you’re willing to accept that risk, stay put anyway. Take one for the team. You may be carrying the virus. Don’t infect others who cannot afford the risk.

This lockdown won’t last forever, but it also won’t be lifted on some arbitrary date. Current restrictions must continue until they are no longer necessary, and no one knows how long that will take.

The economy will falter from this inactivity. At least for a little while, we should stop caring about money and start caring for one another. Idling our economic engines buys us what we need most — time. Time to study the virus’s patterns, time to manufacture testing kits and protective equipment, time to design vaccine testing trials.

We shouldn’t fully gear up again until the road ahead is at least visible, if not clear. Each of us has to do this for the sake of the common good. Being a good team player is what will keep us all in the game. If you find yourself getting stir crazy, especially if you’re young and healthy, some essential social services could greatly use your help.

Here’s just one example. Ebbert United Methodist Church prepares meals for Springfield’s homeless population several days a week. “No one on my team is under 60,” Administrative Assistant Danette Lamson, 60, told me. The dangers haven’t lessened the need.

Nina Weant, 86, only recently stopped handing out sack lunches to guests. “I had to put a brick in her lap to keep her inside,” Lamson lamented.

Judy Brown, 72, has taken up much of the slack. Lamson tries to keep her elderly volunteers away from guests and the risk of infection, but Brown does the Costco shopping each week. 

That’s more than a 70-something should be doing right now, but no one half her age has stepped up. If that might be you, call Lamson at the church: 541-746-3513.

Volunteer efforts have been fueled by retirees since households began needing two incomes. Working adults didn’t have as much time to devote to the greater good, but that has suddenly — and maybe not temporarily — changed.

A new generation of volunteers could emerge from this catastrophe. Can we have a stronger society when this danger has passed? The coronavirus has given us a sporting chance.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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