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What could we do differently if we allowed our pandemic priorities to change us for the better?

Probably just about everything.

Westwood, MA 3/23/2020 There were many discarded protective gloves in this Westwood shopping parking lot. Many stores are closed because of coronavirus concerns. (Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff) Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

What would the world be like if the things that have become most important to us during this pandemic remained so? How would our lives look, if our values and priorities were frozen, right here? If we were always as kind to each other, and as worried about the world, as we are today?

We would do just about everything differently.

We would pay teachers (blessings be upon them!) as much as hedge-funders.

We would be less profligate with toilet paper.

Our hands would always be so clean, we could eat off them.

We would have more respect, and money, for the low-wage workers who deliver our basic needs: Grocery store clerks and others who work along the chain that brings food to our tables; drivers who keep bringing packages to the doors of the luckiest among us; trash haulers and maintenance workers and janitors and others who put themselves at risk to protect us.

We would really see the folks who work in restaurants, most of them for lousy money, and insist that they earn wages that match their dignity.


We would leave bigger tips.

We would make sure every worker had proper paid sick leave, and a safety net for when disaster strikes.

We would demand that everybody have access to the health care they need, seeing clearly at last how other people’s illnesses affect us all.

We would give inmates all the soap they needed, for free. Those of us losing our minds about doing two weeks’ confinement in our comfortable homes might finally spare a thought for those doing hard months, years, and decades in crowded lockups — and see that their loss of liberty is punishment enough.

We would cook more food at home, and throw less of it away.

We would spend less money on things that serve no purpose except to signal status, care less about impressing strangers, make more of what we have last. We would waste less, period.


We would own fewer shoes.

We would spend more time with our families and friends, and be more keenly aware of our massive good fortune to have them, especially the older ones. We would hug longer, and linger in each others’ presence.

We would spend less time with our faces in our phones, and more hours facing each other.

We would care less about sports, and more about conversation.

We would love our neighbors. Yep, even that one.

We would work together to make those who are alone feel less so.

We would be less overwrought about our kids’ academic standing, their sports, their college applications. We would decide that safe, healthy and happy are the only really important things — for our kids, and for everyone else’s.

We would set aside ideology and recognize the ways the government can, and must, keep us safe and make us whole — a responsibility for which individual acts of charity, while a blessing, are no substitute.

We would elect leaders not for the best of times, but for the worst. We would choose based on intellect, compassion, and steadiness in a crisis — not just someone we can believe in, but someone we can believe.

We would go on fewer cruises.

We would revere our open spaces like our forbears once did: places where we can see the sky, breathe, come together. And we would demand many more of them.


We would recognize the guy in the Peloton advertisement for the hero he is.

We would plan better for tomorrow, and next year, and the years after that. We would make wills, and health care proxies. We would leave less unsaid.

We would slow the heck down.

We would be more grateful for all we have, and more outraged at what others do not.

We would — will — be happier on the other side of all this. If we remember.

Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at yvonne.abraham@globe.com. Follow her @GlobeAbraham.