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Bouncing back from COVID-19 with respect for our neighbors

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There is no doubt that we have been living in extraordinary times these past few months. People everywhere are looking for hope, something to believe in and somewhere to place their trust in an uncertain and ever-changing world. 

And the questions that have been on my heart, the questions I believe are on the minds of people everywhere in America and around the world, center on how we trust, love and hope when we are facing difficult things. When our businesses are struggling, when loved ones are sick, church services and weddings plans are altered or canceled. When kids aren’t playing Little League and senior year sports seasons and graduation ceremonies have been canceled. 

Where do we place our trust in times like these? What’s really important? And who are we really living for, anyway?

It’s in times like these that we need to remember who we are, where we’ve come from and what we believe in. 

I am a 60-year-old man now who was blessed to be born and raised in North Carolina. I have enjoyed the freedom to attend a public school, to attend church services where I can freely practice my faith. I have seen my children grow up in a safe, free society, one where they can agree to disagree with the choices our leaders make in a civil and respectful way.

This coronavirus, like everything else, will run its course — with or without a vaccine, or for however long we all make adjustments to our lifestyles. We all must trust in our leaders as they work to ensure our public safety and get our country back to normal, and we will all get back to normal at some point.

Our president, our North Carolina governor and our local and public officials have all done a wonderful job of handling these challenges and changes that have suddenly come upon us. All of them should be supported, because they are dealing with an unforeseeable problem with profound implications for everyone. 

Now is not the time to take sides and point fingers. Now is a time to take a deep breath and count our blessings, and whatever comes along, be kind to one another and seek to help our neighbors who need our help.

Some of us may choose to wear a mask for a while. Some of us may not. Some people may feel comfortable eating in a restaurant our sitting in a church pew less than 6 feet apart. Others may not. Some folks may want to go swim at the pool or go play with their kids on a playground; others may not. 

But the time has come for us to make our own choices as Americans about what we deem is reasonable and safe for each of us. And we need to all be respectful of how our neighbors, those who live alongside us, may choose to adapt to the unexpected illness that has temporarily changed the way we live and work.

I personally am ready to go back to the pool, go to the gym, get my haircut and go sit in a stadium and sit next to someone and watch a ballgame. But that is me. And I certainly don’t expect everyone will feel the same way I do, or that they should agree with me. So, I will respect whatever choices my neighbors make, and I will support their right to disagree. And I will respect them and love them whether they agree with me or not. That is their right as Americans to choose.

I am looking forward to the day, and I believe it will be sooner than later, when we are able to get back to the lives we are blessed to live as North Carolinians and Americans. Where a man shakes a man’s shake hand and looks him in the eye when they meet. And grandmothers hug their grandchildren without fear of infection every chance they get. And people visit their loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes.

And when that day comes, I pray we will all count our blessings and truly understand what’s really important, and see the value of the freedoms we have been blessed with as Americans. That we will see our American way of life as gifts, passed on to us by the blood, sweat and tears of our forefathers. Gifts that, before this virus, changed so many things I, for one, had taken for granted.

Donnie Prince is a Wilson resident, an agent at Eastern Carolina Insurance and the author of five books.