For my family and I, having to isolate ourselves from others has been one of the worst parts of COVID-19. With the required isolation and so many closed businesses, it felt like the entire world had shut down, and left us totally abandoned. So many things that had been a normal part of our lives suddenly disappeared and everything felt strange and unusual.

It bothered me to start viewing every person I came in contact with as a potential threat to my life. Some of us who did venture outside our homes found ourselves apprehensive of everyone who crossed our path. For older people, like my wife and I, contact with an infected person could be fatal.

But we also found it difficult to avoid contact with people. In smaller communities, it is almost impossible to go anyplace without meeting up with someone we know. As we saw family and friends during shopping trips, we wanted to hug them but we were afraid to even get near them. We didn’t want to walk around in fear, but at the same time we didn’t want to risk becoming another statistic.

But after all those weeks of isolation, fear, frustration and confusion, things are slowly starting to open up again. It is exciting and comforting to return to some of our normal routines.

 Even though things are a bit more relaxed, it’s not easy to just step away from our new self-protective habits. We have no way to know if things are really safe. We want move forward, we want things to return to normal, but we still feel just a little uneasy.

One of the things my family has missed the most was being able to go out to a restaurant. For us, especially my wife, the experience has a much deeper meaning than just getting some food. It’s about interacting with people. Going to a restaurant gives us the opportunity to connect with the people of our community, and we enjoy doing that.

When the Pizza Ranch reopened its dining area, we decided it was time to venture outside the walls of our protective fortress. My wife struggles with several health issues and felt a little apprehensive, but said she was ready to take a chance.

Going to that restaurant gave us the opportunity to do something that felt like a return to normal life. But while the dining area and buffet were open, it quickly became clear that it was not business as usual.

Before even approaching the cashier, we were instructed to make use of a bottle of hand sanitizer. The cashier also informed us that we were required to wear disposable gloves as we served ourselves at the buffet. We weren’t required to wear them while eating, but we were required to put on a fresh pair for each return trip. When it was time to refill our drink, we were asked to use a new cup each time.

Masks were not being required, but all of the customers were faithfully observing social distancing. Everyone was being respectful of each other, and giving each other space as they served themselves at the buffet.

There was one other change that I noticed, a positive change, one that filled me with the hope of seeing our city, our state and country return to normal. People were smiling and laughing, enjoying themselves and the fantastic food. I didn’t see a trace of gloom, and I didn’t see fear.

Don’t lose heart things will continue to get better. The recreation centers are reopening, we can get out hair cut, and the pools and the movie theaters are also planning to reopen. A few weeks back, we were told the pools might not open this summer at all.

Things are looking good for the bluegrass festival, the county fair and Arkalalah. While we still want to continue good health practices, and maintain the proper social distancing, life looks so much brighter than it did a few weeks ago.

We’re still not hugging people or shaking hands, but that will eventually become safe and comfortable.

I hope so, that contact is important.

When December arrives, I will once again portray the jolly fat man in the red suit. I can tell you this, Santa loves people, both young and old and he is a hugger. I know that he, his wife and his head elf will find it almost impossible to maintain a social distance from all of the children who love them so much. Somehow, I feel confident that things will be back to normal by then.


 CourierTraveler reporter John Shelman can be contacted at (620) 442-4200 or

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