When we dwell together. . .

“Due to the threat of the global coronavirus pandemic. . .”

The signs are everywhere, and you can end the horrible notice in hundreds of ways:

“. . .we will be closed until further notice.”

“. . .mom’s birthday celebration has been postponed.”

“. . .all service personnel will be furloughed.”

The news is grim, with headlines screaming about the exponential spread of this microbial enemy that has upended life as we know it, a 24-hour news cycle that continues to focus solely on the devastation – coverage that is quickly approaching a saturation point – the “information overload” stage when we become effectively numb to the constant flow of data and statistics that mark the rapid march of a pandemic.

Some of us are able to compartmentalize the gruesome reality of this disease, aware of the unseen danger, but determined to remain positive – while others seem consumed by it – frightened, isolated and gripped by a sense of foreboding that is clearly taking its toll mentally and physically.

Fortunately, the vast majority of people who have been infected with COVID-19 have experienced moderate symptoms and recover in due time with little complications.

However, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems or underlying medical conditions remain at great risk.

That is why we are seeing a nationwide effort to self-isolate and observe social distancing when we venture out for necessities – at least most of us are – unprecedented measures that have required incredible sacrifice and have cost many of our friends, family and neighbors their livelihoods.

And, somehow, life goes on. . .

It’s beginning to feel and sound like spring – temperatures and humidity are beginning to rise; birds are chirping, and my seasonal allergies are marking the season of rebirth – a time of hope, optimism and renewal.

Only this year we must consciously suppress our natural desire to come together, join in groups with family and friends to enjoy our Florida weather, as we remain sequestered in our homes.

During this time, many have taken to social media to stay connected to friends and family in the absence of that all-important physical connection – relationships we will never underestimate again.

And the proliferation of Facebook messages, the sharing of memes, jokes and funny videos show the almost universal need to exercise our sense of humor as an effective coping mechanism during these trying times.

We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and the other milestones of life from our phone or a keyboard – sending well-wishes and congratulations sans the accompanying hug or handshake – and without the traditions and ceremonies that bind us.

It’s enough to depress even the strongest among us.

But, if you look closely, you will find strength, brightness and positivity all around us – things we can connect with as a community – qualities that are exemplified by individuals that have demonstrated incredible leadership and bolstered public confidence in so many unique ways.

For instance, Sheriff Michael Chitwood has spent the last few evenings delivering food for area restaurants – bringing attention to the plight of family owned businesses while keeping spirits high – while letting us know we’re all in this together.

In Daytona Beach, Chief Craig Capri – who has been a consistent voice of calm during turbulent times – performed a similar service for businesses in his community.

Or the incredibly uplifting scene of Holly Hill Mayor Chris Via leading a small parade of cars, complete with the United Brethren in Christ band performing on a flatbed trailer, through the neighborhoods of his community, bringing a smile and much-needed break in the monotony to appreciative residents.

Then, there are the many – both businesses and private citizens – who have found productive ways of helping by making hand sanitizer, sewing masks, packing lunches for children and distributing food to those who can’t afford basic sustenance.

I was particularly taken by County Manager George Recktenwald’s transparency in publicly discussing the emergency decision-making process as various departments and divisions work cooperatively to share information, coordinate with internal and external partners, weather the storm of criticism and develop public policy that, so far, has found a good balance between self-isolation and our ability to enjoy the physical and psychological benefits of our beach and outdoor recreation areas.

And I am consistently touched by the outpouring of support by what are essentially complete strangers – people who I have never personally met – that have reached out to offer their thoughts on this blog site, give a pat on the back, voice a criticism, thoughtfully discuss a local issue or just check to make sure that my family and I are doing okay during these uncertain times.

We are, thank you.

In my view, that speaks volumes to the inherent goodness that remains.

“Due to the threat of the global coronavirus pandemic. . .”

We rediscovered the many wonderful values that bind our community.

We were reminded of how vitally important our physical connection to family and friends truly is, especially during times of crisis.

We marveled at the extraordinary bravery of our first responders and medical professionals on the front line of this crisis.

We learned what it means to put petty differences aside, to think about the needs of others and truly come together as a community, as a state, as a nation to best a common foe and protect our most vulnerable through collective sacrifice.

We saw the best of us.

We found our inner strength.

Our faith was restored.

Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum


4 thoughts on “When we dwell together. . .

  1. Hard times seem to bring out the best, and also the worst, in many of us. I’m reminded of Mr. Rogers counsel to young children in the midst of disaster…”Look for the helpers”.


  2. Thank you, Mark, you are our ray of sunshine, stabilizing, thought provoking, a respite from the fray.
    We are happy all at Barker Command Center are well and wish for you, your Bride, your family, and ALL good health and inner peace.


  3. Mark, thank you for this uplifting, we are all in this together essay. It says lots about your personal humanity, yet more importantly it says even more about our shared humanity. I believe you have touched just a small fraction of the good in all of us. We are in this together. And more importantly we will get through this together. We will have many diverse stories to tell when it has past. My hopes are that they include the simple, ordinary stories about about first responders, medical workers, service workers, like truckers grocery workers, garbage collectors and all the many others who put their lives on the line to protect us. I especially look forward to hearing the LIFE stories of loved ones who did not survive. We will survive and come out the other side stronger. My love to all.
    Paul Milward
    Ormond by the Sea


  4. You are an inspiration, as always. I look around (when I HAVE to go out) and see both kindness and panic Yesterday, I saw pure stupidity – a neighbor had a “bounce house” party for a 3 year old – what’s up with that and WHY did others bring themselves & their children? What are people thinking? I simply do not understand. I’m grateful for those in command who are doing the right thing, and angry at those who are not. I’m thankful for those on the front lines, as well as the common folks with all of the kindnesses they are performing – as with 9/11 (I’m a former NYer), the best and the worst come out of people – I never cease to be amazed. Thanks for your heartfelt words during these crazy days and I’m so happy you and yours are fine. (I’ve been running a fever for a week now-guess I’ll call my PCP to get tested-I didn’t want to use up necessary medical items & I’ve been staying away from people-no other real symptoms-but now….maybe I should-I want to keep “mine” fine too!)


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