Now is not the time for divisiveness | Guest column

by Robin Littlefield

Orcas Island

Twenty-five years ago when I, a single woman, first moved to Orcas Island with a horse, two dogs, and cats, I was immediately embraced by several of the old established farm families. One stopped by to introduce himself and invite me to ride my horse down the old logging roads on his farm. Another stopped by to check that I had enough hay to last through the winter. A couple of months later, a ‘Nor ‘Easter’ (my first) hit the island, and, unsolicited, a neighbor I’d just met once, got through the snow on his backhoe and dumped a load of fireweed at my cabin door. I could go on, but I trust you get the picture. I’ve often said to others over the ensuing years, “Living in a small community you really start to recognize everyone. And while you may never hang out with them, or even speak to them; you know their faces.” And, I continue, “I always feel this warmth toward them. They are our neighbors. Our very own people.”

We’ve been there when needed. We’ve stood witness to others’ life changes; we’ve endured heartbreak and losses side-by-side; we’ve simply listened, or smiled at someone when we weren’t even aware, at that moment, just how much they needed a familiar face. We’ve all created this island community — this wonderful world we get to live in.

And now I’ve heard that a group of individuals bombarded our local businesses and schools shouting harassments to owners, workers, patrons and children about individual rights while not wearing their masks. Seriously? Is that going to help? Intimidation and force — passive or otherwise — are cruel.

This pandemic has strained all of us. It has infected — or affected — all our lives. It has certainly put all of us at risk. And yet, these businesses and schools that have been so violated are filled with the brave people who face this danger daily to keep us supplied with the very food we eat, the health care we require, the supplies we need, and the education of our island children. And now, these protesters chose to disrespect, and possibly, infect our neighbors — our very own overworked, tired yet courageous front-line people, people who should be shielded by the enormity of our gratitude.

Protesters, wake up. It’s time to look at the big picture. Surprise, surprise — this is not about YOU. A pandemic is NOT a political issue. The whole world is living through this weird time. Everyone. Everywhere. It’s been said, “We are all in this together” and we are. Yes, these times are insisting that we grow in our maturity and compassion, not self-centeredness. And, though we all grow at our own pace, this is not the time to be focused on fear, divisiveness, or even hate. Remember, inside we are more alike than we are different. Time to step up.

On many levels, Mother Nature is screaming at us. On our own island these recent years we have witnessed three pandemics. One-by-one specific deadly viruses have wiped out our rabbit population, the deer, and now, it’s our turn. Wake up and look around. Do you see the big picture? At present, America alone is closing in one million deaths from COVID. This is not the right time to be chanting and whining about self-rights. Most certainly, this is not the time for small-mindedness. The time is here to be considerate of others, to be responsible for your own thoughts and actions. A time to do your part; be helpful where and when you can. This is the time to be kind to yourself, and all the living beings of our world. If a mask can protect — or simply make your neighbor feel safe — it seems such a small gesture to show respect for the care and comfort of one another.