You’ve heard of March Madness? It’s a phrase associated with each year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The tournament is amateur sports at its very best. Each spring the tournament features upsets, surprises, “Cinderellas,” human interest stories, heart-stopping, last-second wins, and crushing losses. By the time the tournament rolls around the television sport’s networks have devoted fans worked up into a frenzy. Not so this year.

This year the tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak — more specifically, COVID-19. It appears we have been introduced to a new version of March Madness.

I have been a member of the human race for almost seven decades. Over the course of those years I have fallen victim to a host of viruses. I have endured 24-hour viruses, 48-hour viruses, and once I encountered a 72-hour virus. Whew!

Through the years I have made appointments with my family physician for treatment of assorted upper respiratory infections. A few times I had “come down” with the flu (which can be caused by a variety of viruses). On some occasions I experienced bronchitis, and still on other occasions I simply had “taken” cold (the common cold) which had descended into my chest.

When my doctor wasn’t exactly sure what I had, he would usually say “you have a virus.” Please note he said “you have “a” virus.” In all my years, a doctor has never said to me, “you have “the” virus. If I had asked, “Which virus?” he would have given me a look of surprise and said, “What do you mean which virus? There are hundreds of viruses out there.”

And, so, we have arrived at dealing with a family of viruses which have been around for years — the coronaviruses.

Just to keep things in perspective, 10 short years ago, the U.S. experienced another pandemic known as the Swine Flu or H1N1. According to the CDC, 60 million Americans were infected. Let me write that again — 60 MILLION. It is estimated there were 300,000 (possibly 400,000) hospitalizations and 12,500 to 18,000 deaths.

Best I can recall, we, as a nation, took that pandemic in stride. There was very little sense of panic, if any. We were months into the pandemic before it was declared a national emergency.

Back to the COVID-19. In all my born days, I have never witnessed the panic, the sensational- ism, and, yes, the hysteria that has gripped the citizens of our nation in the past few weeks. Fueled by two medias, the national television media and social media, we seem to have become unhinged. How could the psyche of our people become so easily fractured in 10 short years?

Have we forgotten the world in which we live has never been a safe place?

Shortly after World War II, C. S, Lewis (1898-1963) wrote of how are we to live in an atomic age? “I am tempted to reply, why as we would have lived in the 16th century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as we would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavian might land and cut your throat any night.”

Since the time of C.S. Lewis we survived the Cold War when Nikita Khrushchev, Premier of the Soviet Union rattled his sword to the point we were building bomb shelters. (The old timers called them “bum” shelters.) Back on the old home place we still have the remnants of a bomb shelter yet unfinished.

We are now living in the age of cancer and radicals who would see us dead and car accidents and natural disasters. To quote C.S. Lewis, “you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death when we came into this world.”

How could a specific virus which causes minor, if any symptoms, in 80-85% of the people it infects throw our nation (and the world) into such a frizzy?

Here are few facts to consider: The United States of America has a pure water supply and the safest, most inspected food supply in the world. And our hospital and healthcare system is the finest in the world. We have the best doctors and the finest research universities. As we fight this virus we are in the best of hands.

So how are we to live in an unsafe world when uncertainty and an underlying sense of panic are the rulers of the day? Again, let me share the words of C.S. Lewis with a few of my own. May we be found doing sensible and human things — praying, working, teaching, listening to music, staying in touch with friends, taking time to reflect, and counting our blessings — doing ordinary things that bring us joy.

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), British General and statesman encouraged his soldiers with this maxim: “Trust in God and keep your power dry.”

I would add to that, as we confront a different kind of enemy. Trust in God, wash your hands, protect your older friends, and keep a level head.

This, too, shall pass.

Hartsville resident Jack McCall is a writer, humorist and motivational speaker.

Hartsville resident Jack McCall is a writer, humorist and motivational speaker.

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