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The angel doll.

When this is all over, there are lots of things I will be ready to put behind me.

But there are things that I don’t want to forget when things get back to normal. Here are a few.

Walking down Sixth Street, just past Crystal Towers, as I do most days, stopping and looking at a curious sight. Is that a doll? I cross the street and, sure enough, it is a doll, an angel in a white crocheted dress, with glittered wings, strapped to the trunk of a tree close by the street.

Was it intended for a blessing of some kind? Or did someone happen to have an angel doll with them one day when they drove or walked by and thought, “I think I will tie it to that tree, so people will see it when they drive by, and maybe they will smile and be happy for a little bit”?

Every day I check to see if the angel doll is still there. As of this writing, it is.

I can’t imagine what the motivation might have been. Whatever it was, I don’t want to forget the angel on the tree on Sixth Street when things get back to normal.

Going downtown at noon on Easter Sunday to hear the ringing of the bell at First Baptist Church on Fifth Street. The bell had not been rung for two years; the motor that rang the bell automatically was broken. This year a father and his 10-year-old son would climb the steps of the steeple and ring the 1,500 pound bell by hand.

People got out of their cars — respectfully distanced from each other — looked up, as if they might see something when the bell began to ring, and counted down — there was a countdown to the ringing of the bell on Easter Sunday: 5-4-3-2-1. How cool is that? After the last peal, the street side celebrants broke out in applause.

Speaking to masked strangers, fellow walkers enjoying a magnificent spring, nature’s way of saying, “I’m sorry.”

Walking down city sidewalks that in normal times are populated by people going out to eat or dropping into a coffee shop, lawyers walking purposefully to the courthouse, office workers running errands, with some homeless people mixed in, largely unseen. Now the homeless have the sidewalks mostly to themselves.

Looking a homeless man in the eye when we pass on the sidewalk. Speaking to him. Nothing profound or even personal. Just, “How ya doing? How’s it going?” A simple acknowledgement that we share the same sidewalk in the same town on the same planet. “You’re not invisible. I see you.”

I didn’t do that when things were normal. If normal means not seeing the invisible people, I don’t want to go back to that.

Stopping to read a multi-colored sign in a yard in our neighborhood. “Here we believe: love is love, no human is illegal, black lives matter, science is real, women’s rights are human rights, water is life, kindness is everything.” It’s not a contentious, in-your-face sign. It’s a happy sign in red, purple, yellow, blue and green, a celebration of things the people who live there believe. You don’t have to believe everything or anything on the sign; the folks who put it up aren’t asking you to. They’re just sayin’ ...

Another sign in the same yard says simply, “Everything will be OK.” The left side of my brain says, no, everything will not be OK for everyone when things get back to normal, because there will be no normal to get back to. Some businesses that closed will not re-open. Some people who were laid off will not be rehired. Lots of people will be in lots of debt. Some folks will spend weeks recovering from a devastating virus; others will grieve a loved one who didn’t recover. Everything will definitely not be OK.

But I hear another voice say, we did what was required of us. We holed up in our houses and apartments, kept our distance, took care of those we are responsible for, delivered masks to elderly neighbors and food to folks who might have gone without otherwise. We looked COVID-19 straight in the eye, then went out and painted #WeNotMe on the rear window of our van, put cool signs in our yard, applauded the ringing of the bell on Easter, and strapped an angel doll to a tree just to make people smile.

We’re gonna be OK.

Richard Groves is a former minister and educator.

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