Tales of the Sunset

Tales of the Sunset: Shelter Each Other

Tales of the Sunset, by Suzy Loftus

March 17, 2020

There is a piece of art that hangs on the wall of our Outer Sunset home that reads: “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”

This Irish proverb has adorned our walls since my husband and I picked it up at a farmers’ market in Ireland nearly 20 years ago, but it seems as though it were written for today. We’ve all been ordered to “shelter in place” due to the potential threat of the COVID-19 virus and our ability to follow this directive will impact the health of our community.

As I write my inaugural column for the Sunset Beacon, my three daughters sit upstairs attempting to do their school work from home since their schools were closed. Instead of visiting my Mom in person, I’m FaceTIming her and finding ways to connect digitally. Every hour we learn a new way that our world has changed — and we find ways to adjust.

We have come to the point where the way we shelter the vulnerable people in our communities is by sheltering ourselves – staying where we are and avoiding unnecessary contact. Our connection to each other actually requires that we keep each other at a distance, stay at home, wash our hands and attempt to be of service in whatever way is possible. The shelter that we provide is actually distance – and that distance has the power to save lives.

As of now, here’s what will stay open in the neighborhood:

  • Grocery Stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Restaurants – for takeout only
  • Child Care facilities

 And, here’s what is now closed: 

  •  Bars and Nightclubs
  • Dine-in Restaurants
  • Entertainment Venues
  • Gyms and Fitness Studios

 But social distance doesn’t have to mean social isolation. Staying healthy requires staying connected to the people in our lives. Take a quick inventory of the people in your life and check in on the people who live alone, who are sick or may be more severely impacted by the shelter in place order. Write that friend a letter, make a phone call or if you are able to, place a FaceTime call. Our new reality requires that we all adjust our routines and challenge ourselves in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

For me – a lawyer by trade and a mother of three – I’m quickly adapting to figuring out how to manage school work at home for my fifth grader, seventh grader and ninth grader. I’ve used this sample scheduleas a basis to build a plan for the day. I printed out and hole-punched worksheets that the amazing public school teachers shared via Google Classroom and identified some great tools for online learning like Khan Academy. To infuse an extra jolt of academic rigor, I’ve asked my ninth grader to lead a lesson a day and as I write, she’s teaching her little sisters how to construct a literary analysis of Edgar Allen Poe’s, “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

I also sent out the call for help to the parents I know and got great tips to keep them engaged with the San Diego Zoo Virtual Field Tripand ideas for physical activity. We are watching dance videos on YouTube and we are taking walks by the beach – but staying six feet away from folks we encounter. 

Just as the Irish Proverb says, we are each other’s shelter and now is our time to band together to protect our community. If we follow the guidance from our City and State public health officials and leaders, including sheltering in place, washing our hands and taking steps to protect the most vulnerable, we will be providing that critical shelter that we all need.  

Let me know how you are managing this public health crisis. What are your best strategies for keeping distant but connected? I will share the best ideas and suggestions for getting through. Have you found a great way to volunteer virtually or provide help to those in need? Send that info my way, too. I’ll share it in my next column so we can all help the people in our community who are at the greatest need. Email me at TalesOftheSunset@gmail.com.

Suzy Loftus is a native San Franciscan and resident of the Outer Sunset, mother of three, former district attorney of San Francisco and elected member of the San Francisco Democratic Central Committee.

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