I am just going to cite one statistic about the coronavirus, which is the most telling. As of this writing, 54,964 Americans have died due to the virus. In the Vietnam war, 47,424 Americans died. Our heavy involvement in the war was nine years. Our involvement with COVID-19 is a matter of months.

Every war teaches us something. What does the war on COVID-19 teach us? What message is it giving us?

The message the Civil War gave us was that we need to live in harmony with one another and treat each other equally. We have come a long, long way with many more miles to go. The good news is we are still learning and still trying.

The message World War I gave us was that wars are not good and we should do everything in our power to avoid them. The founding of the League of Nations in 1920 was supposed to foster world peace. It was not effective but it was a good try.

The message of World War II was that we now have the capability of wiping out all of humanity in a matter of minutes. To prevent this from happening, the United Nations was formed in 1945. Although no nuclear bombs have been dropped on others since World War II, wars still exist and we remain fearful that someone could pull the trigger.

We learned from the Korean War that some wars cannot be won and it is to our advantage to broker any sort of peace that will save lives. The Korean Armistice Agreement, passed in 1953, didn’t really end the war but it did save lives.

We know what happened in the Vietnam War. It was very similar to the Korean War. We can say we didn’t learn much. And then, of course, we had 9/11 and the wars in the Middle East are still costing lives as we speak.

The world is filled with brilliant people. The world is filled with caring, compassionate people. The world is filled with people who live by common sense. After all of those wars and all of the deaths, and knowing that more people will continue to die from COVID-19, you would think we could come up with a message that we could all live by.

COVID-19 caught the world by surprise but it didn’t have to. We could have been much more proactive. We could have used our technological know-how to prevent lives lost in the in the United States and in the world. So, what is the message?

When I have to run some errands or, as I say, get provisions, I find that people seem to be more polite, more thoughtful, more caring. Have you found that to be true? I guess we all realize that we are in this together and it will take all of us to get out of this quagmire. Maybe that’s the message. We need to treat everyone as if they were our brother and sister.

I recently had to visit all of the cities in Beltrami County including Northome and Clearbrook as well as the little villages of Redby and Ponemah. All of the businesses were very willing to help in passing out booklets giving parents homeschooling tips. Maybe that’s the message. We just need to be more helpful to one another.

Everyday at 7 p.m. Kathy blows a whistle and I ring an old iron school bell in honor of all the front line workers who risk their lives helping others. (This, by the way, is an international movement.) This not only goes for the health care workers but also the grocery store and the convenience store workers not to mention the fast food takeout personnel and especially those people working in assisted living and nursing homes. They truly are risk takers. No one knows where or who the coronavirus will strike. Maybe the message is we need to say “thank you” louder.

You have seen reports about how clean the air is in cities like Los Angeles and New York due to the lack of auto traffic. The skies are clear. The planet is healing itself and we are helping it. It’s like night and day. What if the skies were like this all of the time? Maybe the message is we just need to wake up and treat our earth a whole lot nicer.

Even though families cannot get together like before COVID-19, we found ways to show how much we care. This goes for the families who are staying home and for their loved ones far away. We have been using more emails, FaceTime, Zoom, phone calls and letters than ever before. Families have grown closer. Maybe this is the message. We have learned to show love in different ways.

I am sure after all of this is over we will be inundated with books about what COVID-19 has taught us and what we should learn just like there were books written after each war. The problem is, we were not good learners, we were not paying attention. What can we do that will show that we were paying attention to the messages resulting from COVID-19?

Walt Kelly in a 1960s Pogo comic strip, which is often quoted, said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” It doesn’t have to be that way. We can do better. It could read, “We have met our friends, and they are us.”

Linus of Peanuts fame said, “A friend who understands your tears is much more valuable than one who just knows your smile.” Do you suppose that’s what is now motivating all of us to act a bit more compassionately? Are we understanding each other’s tears? Do you suppose that’s the message? Why don’t we make it the message?

Riddle: Why do people put on their right shoe first? (Answer: Because it would be foolish to put on their wrong shoe.) It would also be foolish if we failed to learn anything from this ongoing COVID-19 tragedy.

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If you would like a booklet on homeschooling tips but do not have one, I would be willing to mail one to you. Just give me a call at (218) 766-9009. They are also available at every food store and major convenient store in the county. Thanks and thanks for your efforts in homeschooling your kids.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.