Tapping parental wisdom in a pandemic

Tapping parental wisdom in a pandemic

March 29, 2020

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How I learned to stop worrying about the future of harness racing.

by Dave Briggs

My mother is fond of sage sayings — the kind of parents-only wisdom we always mocked or bristled at as kids. One of her favorites is “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” She also is fond of “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Though, for some reason, I attribute the latter as much to my father who would get testy and drop that on me whenever I predicted impending doom.

My attitude in my impetuous youth was more like, “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.” But, 50 years on for me, with my academic parents still preaching the gospel of clear thinking, I appreciate “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” more each passing day. It serves as a kind of calming Tao of Patience I have now repeated to my own kids, of course — who undoubtedly bristle when hearing it, but have the good sense to mock me behind my back and out of earshot.

As for what post-COVID-19 future holds for harness racing — or anything else in our lives for that matter — it’s too early to know, so why stress yourself out further about it? The industry focus, for now, should be on immediate financial assistance and basic care for horses and people in the industry, that need it most, not bemoaning what the industry will be like later, whether we defer stakes payments or not.

Make no mistake, we will see the other side of this terrible tragedy at some point. Let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, wringing our hands and predicting the end of everything certainly does not help. There will be no gold stars for being right at the end of the apocalypse and, in the meantime, doom-saying only serves to further anxiety. So, why bother?

Everyone’s different, of course, and I can’t begin to fathom whether either of my parents’ favorite nuggets — more on “two wrongs don’t make a right” in a second — will be at all helpful to anyone else as the COVID-19 pandemic steals lives, destroys economies and alters our way of life more than any event in my lifetime. I only share them in the hopes it will help some achieve clearer thinking, because it’s apparent the “now, now, NOW!” tenets of our instant culture isn’t helping us to navigate this mess.

Certainly, instant everything is depleting common sense, growing selfishness and robbing many of us of perspective.

And, oh could we all use greater perspective if only to stay safe, keep others safe and hope the vast majority of us come out of this with something tangible intact — our souls and sanity chief among them.

Side note that I find it ridiculous and a little sad that I even have to write this at this point, but… having perspective currently means that for a few weeks, maybe a few months, we all need to do our part to stay home as much as possible and limit exposure to people other than those we live with or absolutely have to work with — maintaining as much distance as reasonable when it comes to the latter. Also, wash your damn hands, thoroughly, with soap, for at least 20 seconds frequently throughout the day and, for sure, after touching anything outside your own home. Five-year-olds learn that in kindergarten for goodness sake. The fact most of us weren’t already doing that is pathetic and disgusting and I hope this is a cleanliness habit we all employ for the rest of our lives — pandemic or not.

The health advice is a widely-repeated message on which scores of global medical experts agree. It is not the work of some self-described expert with a Facebook account. Ignore true scientific information and medical experts not just at your own peril, but the peril of us all.

The fact some people are continuing business as usual baffles me and speaks, again, to some people’s selfishness or ignorance — neither are a good look.

As one popular meme goes: The Greatest Generation stepped up to sacrifice their lives and liberty to save the world from the Nazis. You’re being asked to sit on the couch for a few weeks. Don’t screw this up.

Perspective can help us cope here, if you’ve lived long enough to experience hardship of some kind and come through it. I’m sure your own personal challenges may have seemed like never-ending hell at the time. Years on, time and the resiliency of the human spirt has, for most of us, a wonderful way of making even the most difficult times seem insignificant. I profoundly believe this will, one day, feel like that, too.

“This too shall pass” also sounds like something my parents would say. They probably did. I don’t remember for sure on that one. Either way, it has consistently proven to be true throughout history and is important to remember to help you cope now.

As far as pandemics go, history suggests COVID-19 is a once-in-a-century event in terms of severity. But compared to a litany of extreme human hardships, it’s one of a number I can think of that seem to pop up about every decade, including, but not limited to: world wars, the Great Depression, 9/11, tsunamis, earthquakes, Chernobyl, extreme famine and wildfires.

Yes, there was an incredible human toll to all those things, but humans who maintain their composure and compassion and actually use the big brains they are blessed with, are remarkably resilient on the whole.

In many measures, the world has been trying to kill us of for aeons and we’re still here. Humans will be here after COVID-19.

As for “two wrongs don’t make a right” there’s a lot to ponder here in terms of maintaining a strong moral compass.

First, just because you witness someone being a jackass doesn’t give you the right to be a jackass, too.

To put this in the context of these troubled times: just because your neighbor is an butthat that returns from some foreign locale and, instead of going straight into self-isolation at home as instructed, goes to three stores and visits the grandkids first —possibly infecting hundreds of people with COVID-19 to score beer and chips — doesn’t mean you get a green light to strap on your own butthat and head out.

Do better. Be better. Rise above other people’s butthat tendencies for the sake of others.

Second, please remember people are already stressed to their limit and don’t need to be further inflamed. Just because someone makes an asinine statement on social media, doesn’t make it okay for you to do the same. We already live in incredibly divisive times. Do your part to either try to lower the discord or take the high road. Even better, just stay the hell off social media altogether. It’s mostly a sewage cesspool of negativity, finger-pointing, partisanship and insanity on a good day.

The bottom line is this: Be kind. Be patient. Act in a way that takes others into consideration. Help where you can. Stay clean and at home as much as possible. Just get through the day as best you can and try to maintain a little long-term perspective. Life is supposed to be a marathon not a sprint.

Your health and the health of others supersedes everything right now — including the economy and, most assuredly, harness racing.

As for what the future holds for our great sport, let’s get through COVID-19 first and then cross that bridge when we come to it.

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