April 22, 2020

The “New Normal” IN Appalachia

We barely had started our new year’s resolutions when we had to adjust our lives for the COVID19 pandemic. The buzz word for April was “new normal”. And as we continue to move forward through this pandemic to reach the other side, the new normal is a question yet to be defined. We all have our decisions to make when we return to normal. Here IN Appalachia we’ve weathered crises before, be it floods, coal mining disasters, strikes, closures, or even the pandemic of 1918. These past crises have made us stronger, more resilient, and resulted in innovative changes along the way. Each “new normal” created more faith in ourselves. 

Soon, here IN Appalachia our downtowns and small businesses will re-open and the “non-essentials” we have grown to miss so much will be busy again. If there should be any lessons learned from the first quarter of 2020 is that small businesses are important to the life and livelihood of towns. They are essential to the heartbeat of each community. Regional funding sources are providing funds to help local communities support existing businesses in this challenging time. Will the focus going forward be on growing existing businesses, entrepreneurship and innovation rather than landing the big fish? Are the local EDO’s of rural SWVA ready to reflect on what we have learned? 

Once we transitioned to Zoom meetings, we became vastly aware that our co-workers have lives outside of work. We routinely get to see their pets, their children and spy on what their homes look like. Professionalism took a dive as the weeks wore on and sweatshirts and sweatpants became the dress code of the call. What will we do when we return to the office? Will we be as happy to see a smiling face in person as we are during these days of isolation or will we return to the stoic professional style we had before? Will relationships surpass the three-piece suit? Can we find a way to weave the value of relationships and caring for our co-workers and colleagues with professionalism? 

And finally, as we returned to our homes and restaurants closed, we found a new routine. A quieter, slower routine of home cooked meals, time with our children and loved ones, daily walks and adapting to a slower pace of life. Some of us got to know our neighbors a little better. Some of us actually picked up our cell phones and made a call. It has that feature. Texting just seemed a little too distant. Hearing that voice meant everything. This isn’t something new. It is however, something we left behind in our hurried and frenzied pace of life before. One where every moment had to be filled with an activity and “what’s for dinner” was answered by where we would drive thru. Will we embrace this time as a gift that has been given to us to reflect and value, or will we run head first into that frenzied pace again? 

There are a lot of questions that come to mind when we consider the “new normal”. Too many to ask here. What about you? What do you think our “new normal” will look like? What changes do you hope we will see from this? 

This is the beginning of a series that will discuss what we will look like IN Appalachia post COVID19. Your comments are welcomed.