I wasn’t going to do this. I had more or less promised myself I wouldn’t offer a column about the Coronavirus, because I have nothing factual to add to the science, and because folks who are truly on the front lines of hardcore First Responder-ing aren’t served by yet another reminder that we have it easier out here in the sticks.

Then, the New York Times ran a story about several islands around the United States and how they initially reacted to vacationer-types thinking of those tiny communities as essentially fallout shelters, which they (and we) are ill prepared to be. That is a complex subject but allow me to toss out that figuring out who is and who isn’t a “real” island resident is not as simple as it was a couple of generations ago. More significantly, I’d suggest, it is only those with plentiful resources who could contemplate such a move, and they are probably not who the rest of society needs to serve right now.

There are people who are truly suffering or will be, and there are people who are merely inconvenienced. There are many who quite seriously cannot afford this interruption in economic routine. There are children who will be harmed by the ignorance or failure of the adults in their lives. I fear there will be some who become despondent and many who could be bankrupted. Let those who are inconvenienced, but not truly threatened with poverty, keep their bellyaching to a dull roar. Let us find a way to be useful. This is an oddball disaster, as disasters go — and that coming from a somewhat trained disaster geek — because everybody usually says, “Go visit your neighbors, shovel them out and bring the casserole.” For this particular struggle the powers that be hesitate to advise visiting.

Knox County Emergency Management Director Ray Sisk reminded the county’s municipal emergency management directors in a meeting — held by videoconference — last week that, “Part of our job is to maintain a sense of optimism and calm. We need to flatten the curve of this disease, but we also need to flatten the curve of the hysteria.”

(Heard in a communication to me as a municipal official: “Have I reached the Pestilence Committee?”)

If it is within your power to de-escalate anxiety, to diminish panic by taking some small constructive action, to interfere with the progress of a rumor by refusing to pass it along, or to shut off the social media for a few minutes, that may be doing everybody a service — just as staying out of crowds and washing our hands conscientiously do.

(Heard from a relative, in jest: “When the apocalypse is here it makes sense to steal a donut.” Well, OK; I’d still recommend paying for the donut. Also, just because all the food is take-out doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tip. It’s not the employees’ fault we aren’t sitting at the table.)

On that note, let me take this opportunity to publicly and loudly thank every food producer, grocer, retail clerk, cashier, shelf-stocker and truck driver who is working to keep us fed and clean. Store clerks these days are like the linemen after the ice storm. In Rockland recently I was pleased to discover that unlike the horror-movie behavior we see reported, the shopping public seemed basically normal. Sure, certain aisles of the stores were empty. The chicken truck hadn’t been in; that was obvious. But the people I encountered were courteous, patient, and buying reasonable quantities. I have nothing good to say about hoarders. This is not “every man for himself.”

No disaster ever is.

When I was in town to buy milk and soap I also bought flowers. One does what one can.

So, not to for one second forget those who are sick, or are having trouble getting food, let those who are merely inconvenienced teach their home-from-school children to change a tire. This could be a radical cultural re-set where we learn, as a nation, that a good education is not, in fact, only about “teaching to the test” and “being globally competitive” but about learning how to do things — real things! — and settling in with a good book, and making art, and interacting with people who are not our age-mates.

(Heard again and again: “COVID-19 will have been when millions of American children learned to Carry the One.”)

Back when the coffee shop was still open for sit-down business, I was slurping my soup and overheard a few teachers nearby talking about hands-on skills. Their discussion gravitated to the philosophical. “Darning socks is like prayer,” said one. I asked her if I might write that down.

(Heard from somebody on the plane: “After we teach everybody how to wash their hands properly, next week we start on shapes and colors!”)