Who would have ever thought that just to do business in the county recorder’s office, you would encounter a deputy sheriff at the courthouse door, asking questions about your health? The farmer who experienced this recently reports that it felt surreal.
I’ve lived nearly 67 years. I don’t remember any times quite like what we’ve experienced since early March, with everything from schools to church services canceled or diverted to online. The closest I get is the energy crisis of the 1970s. Buildings were dark at night and gas lines were long.
What do I remember most? The Indiana High School Basketball Tournament, which was still a one-class classic then, was delayed from March into April. No wonder canceling all basketball tournaments this year left some people reeling.
A farmer joked that everyone in his little community knew the COVID-19 episode was serious when the local tavern, home of one of the best tenderloins in Indiana, closed its doors. Another farmer quipped that with a favorite farmer breakfast hangout one county over also shut down, someone might have to offer psychological help to those who can’t gather for coffee and conversation.
These guys thought they were joking, but they’ve hit on something important. You will plant corn and soybeans when the weather clears, and your local fertilizer retailer and equipment dealer will provide service, but things will be different.
One equipment dealer with stores in several Indiana communities, Koenig Equipment, notified customers that they are still welcome to come in. However, if they prefer, they can order parts online, and even pick them up at curbside without ever seeing anyone. Customers can line up service online, and even arrange for technicians to come to the farm. The dealer also is offering quotes on new equipment via email.
Even some country feed mills by mid-March were offering “drive-through” service, where you call before you arrive and they meet you at the dock, load your feed and hand you your bill, all outside the office. It’s their good faith way to support the effort to contain the virus. After all, many of their customers, like me, are in the high-risk category.
While these things are prudent, and some, like ordering parts online, may soon be commonplace, there’s one common denominator: They mean less human interaction. That’s good if you’re trying to limit potential spread of a disease. It’s not so good for someone who values social interaction in their daily routine. Potential mental stress and learning to cope with less human interaction may be the yet-untold stories and hidden challenges of this spring’s unprecedented chain of events.
What can you do to help? Stay in touch with neighbors, even if it’s by phone, perhaps through Facetime. Check on one another, and don’t be afraid to ask someone how they’re doing, and really mean it.
Concern about mental health in rural areas was high even before life as we knew it went off the rails, and grain prices dipped even more. If there was stress before, there’s certainly still stress now.
Keep an eye on each other. We will get through this and be able to say, “Remember what things were like in the spring of 2020?” Protect your own mental health, and seek help if you need it. Do what you can to keep those you value sane as well.
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