Editorial: Plus ça change …

  • Homer (“Tony”) Stavely and his wife, Mary Mayshark-Stavely, demonstrate how they attended “virtual church” on their laptop computer at their Northfield home. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS HARRIS

Published: 3/25/2020 3:35:28 PM

“Plu ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” goes an old French epigram and, indeed, much about life in Franklin County and the North Quabbin area is recognizable despite coronavirus shutdowns.

For instance, after Gov. Charlie Baker’s mandatory closure of all schools in Massachusetts for at least three weeks, school districts across the county replaced the breakfasts and lunches that families count on for their children with free “grab and go” meals picked up at the schools.

Many of our favorite restaurants have pivoted toward take-out. In Bernardston, for example, Hillside Pizza co-founder Craig White ingeniously converted a bay window into a storefront, with menu items on display and a double-sash side window he slides up to greet and serve customers.

Similarly, Dr. Stefan Topolski has opened two drive-through windows at his Bridge Street practice in downtown Shelburne Falls. He said the windows are in his two examination rooms. “We realized we have two windows to the parking lot,” Topolski said, “so we put up cones to direct people to the windows.”

Area senior centers are working to stay in touch and provide services despite being forced to close their doors. “With the closed building, we are trying to reinvent ways to offer services amid this moving landscape,” said Greenfield Council on Aging Director Hope Macary. The center will launch an outgoing “reassurance service” to call and check in with Greenfield seniors. In Shelburne, Director Cathy Buntin said transportation is still running for medical supplies and grocery shopping, though they are planning rides so people don’t sit close together and the van can be sanitized regularly. The South County Senior Center is offering meals Monday, Wednesday and Friday, individually packaged and brought out to cars in the parking lot or delivered to seniors who cannot drive. The Bernardston Senior Center is also offering LifePath meals in a drive-through service.

A lot of us are getting a crash course in technology, ready or not. Faith groups, for instance, are wading into video conferencing platforms such as Zoom to link members into virtual services and even virtual coffee hours and virtual Bible study. Other churches are sharing their services on Facebook Live and YouTube, and then there is the humble, old-school technology of emails and phone calls to keep in touch.

Banking customers are practicing using mobile apps to apply for loans or make transfers online.

Here at The Recorder, which, as an essential service is exempt from closing, remote desktops allow reporters and editors who choose to, to work from home, seeing on our laptop or desktop computers just what we would see at work.

Some of us may feel we’re being dragged kicking and screaming into a virtual lifestyle, but it’s all a means to an end of holding onto what’s important. As Anita Fritz wrote in her Neighbors column on Monday, “I’ve lived in this county my entire life and I know we have great, caring people living here.” And even though, as Fritz wrote, “things are changing by the minute,” we’re all still here for each other, which just goes to prove, “the more things change, the more they remain the same.”

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