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A few weeks ago, I started thinking about what I’d write in this space for the H-F Chronicle’s April edition. 

Headshot of Tom Houlihan

At first, I planned to write about the U.S. Postal Service and the Chronicle’s problems with mail delivery. We pay to have our monthly print edition delivered to every residential address in Homewood and Flossmoor. We are committed to reaching everybody who lives in the H-F area and it’s important that we can tell our advertisers that the Chronicle is delivered to all our residents.

It’s a great idea but the execution leaves much to be desired. There are neighborhoods in Homewood and Flossmoor that just don’t get the Chronicle. I live in one of them and have not gotten a print edition for months. I run into people all the time who tell me the same thing. We also have problems with our regular postal delivery and constantly getting the mail for a family that lives a block away.

So that was Topic A.

Topic B would have been about a proposed new schedule for Metra’s Electric Line. There’s a story on page 3 in this issue of the Chronicle about the public meeting in Flossmoor and what riders think of the planned changes. The new schedule would eliminate stops at 59th Street in Hyde Park, which is closest to the University of Chicago. Many of our residents work or go to school at the U of C and taking away those stops would be a real hardship for them.

If I had picked Topic B, it very well may have included a phrase like this: METRA, PUT THOSE 59TH STREET STOPS BACK WHERE THEY BELONG!

But the world changed before I could write about those topics, or perhaps an upbeat column about how the White Sox were bound for glory this year.

Now we are mostly concerned with hand washing and social distancing and whether we will eventually have to shelter-in-place.

This issue of the Chronicle was originally supposed to have a different cover story. After March 11 – that was the day the NBA suspended its season – most of the activities around us came to a screeching halt. Suddenly, schools were closed and there were no professional or amateur sports. The financial markets plummeted and a healthy economy hit the skids in about 90 seconds. Bars and restaurants were closed to drinkers and diners. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer disappeared from the planet.

As the number of COVID-19 victims grows, we are concerned about our own health, and making sure that the people we love are safe. Since all this is so new, we are unsure about how to make that happen. It’s very hard.

Since we started the Chronicle in 2014, our primary mission has been to cover the news, large and small, in Homewood and Flossmoor. We are a hyper-local newspaper but, obviously, the coronavirus is much more than a local story. During the COVID-19 emergency we will be relying on information from the Illinois and Cook County health departments to keep you informed. During the crisis, we want to continue covering the news in our communities. In times like these it’s important to have a reliable local news source.

When everything came unhinged after March 11, I had the distinct feeling that we were in the middle of a zombie movie without the zombies. I also thought that there are different ways to react to such an emergency. It’s either “every man for himself” or “we’re all in this together.” Like everyone else, I have no idea what the next two or three months will bring. But I am pretty sure that we will be better off if we stick together, even though that will be harder to do with social distancing protocols.

While it may seem that the world is on hold, it really isn’t. We all still have our common humanity and that is always worth a lot. Humans, as creatures, have the ability to make plans and to carry them out. This is a time to plan ahead and also to rely on the innate toughness that has allowed our species to survive for so long.

I sometimes think about my Irish grandfather, who left a farming community in County Kerry with nothing and came to a big city to start a new life. That, to me, is the very definition of being tough. One of the reasons he succeeded is that he became part of a nurturing community in Chicago. We live in remarkable 21st century communities and can continue to nurture each other, even with the coronavirus. 

Let me leave you with a few pieces of advice that might make the next weeks easier.

Go for a walk. The winter is over and good weather is on the way. Walking is always good exercise. At times like this it benefits the soul. We are allowed to walk, with the usual social distancing, during our state’s shelter-in-place period. It’s probably never been a better idea.

Finally, there’s time to re-arrange those photos. (Tom Houlihan/H-F Chronicle)
Finally, there’s time to re-arrange those photos. (Tom Houlihan/H-F Chronicle)

Re-arrange those photos. We have thousands of photos of our sons, now grown men, from when they were kids. I have been putting off the re-arranging of them for years. During the age of COVID-19, there’s no excuse to not get started. Plus it’s always fun to see all the old pictures. You can do it with digital photos too.

Listen to music. And dance. Being a child of the ‘60s, I always like classic Motown. Decide what you like and start to move.

Try to laugh. I found our book of “Archy and Mehitabel” the other day, funny poems that were written more than 100 years ago by Don Marquis, a long-ago newspaper columnist. Archy is a cockroach — and a reincarnated free verse bard — who jumps at night on Marquis’ typewriter keys to produce poetry from the viewpoint of a despised insect. 

Mehitabel, his friend, is an alley cat who is the reincarnation of Cleopatra, queen of the Nile. What can I say? It always makes me laugh.

Hang in there, my friends. We’ll get through this together.  

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