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April Jeppson: Can we try just a little harder to be nicer?

Every Little Thing by April Jeppson


Here’s the setup. My hometown has just under 400 residents, and my graduating class had 32 people in it. It’s Labor Day weekend, when my town normally comes alive. I believe I’ve written a few columns about Wild Rice Days and the fun that my family has. Like most of the fun activities that were planned for the summer, it has been canceled. 

My 20-year class reunion was scheduled to happen this weekend to coincide with the festival. When Wild Rice Days got canceled, I seriously considered canceling our reunion as well. I waited and watched as the governor created mandates, then loosened them and then created more. I knew that I was going to go home for the long weekend anyway, so if a few people wanted to get together at a picnic table and talk, I figured why not?

April Jeppson

Earlier this week I got word that a few of the local bars would be having outdoor entertainment. A band, outdoor seating — sounded like the perfect venue for what I had in mind. Current governor’s guidelines for outdoor gatherings states no more than 25 people in a social setting and 250 in an outdoor area for entertainment. Our best-attended reunion only had 17 people at it, and I was hoping we might get 10 people here this year.

I felt like this was a perfect fit. 

The last six months have been a wild ride. I wanted to provide a fun, safe opportunity to hang out — a chance to reminisce while still following the recommended health guidelines that we’ve been given. I’m convinced that COVID has impacted our mental health more than our physical health at this point. For those who needed a break from all this chaos, I wanted to give them that chance. 

I was actually proud of the research and thoughtfulness I put into this 10-person unofficial reunion. Then I get a message from one of my classmates. I had reached out to her to find out if she would be joining us for our tiny gathering. She told me she thought that having the reunion was irresponsible in light of the pandemic we’re going through. She thought I was being irresponsible. For you to understand why those words cut deep, let me tell you a bit about myself. 

I am a rule follower. I don’t like ruffling feathers or making people upset. I’m a people pleaser and do what I’m told. I create spreadsheets before I make major life choices, and I truly did ponder and pray before I made the decision to downgrade our formal reunion to an outdoor meet-and-greet. So, to have someone refer to my actions as irresponsible, it really upset me. 

I am not an anti-masker. I am not a blind supporter of our governor or our president. I think Fox News and CNN are both riddled with hidden agendas. I believe that COVID is real, and I’m also well aware that we might be dealing with it for the next two years. I believe that the proper use of masks and thorough hand washing can help slow the spread. However, with the way people are wearing their masks and the quality of their handwashing, I’m not sure how much good it’s actually doing.

I am so tired of all the bickering. I’m right and you’re wrong. You’re not just wrong, you’re a dummy for believing something different than I do. The name calling. The shaming. I’m better than you because I’ve chosen to hole up in my house for six months and only get my rations drop-shipped by helicopter once a month. I just can’t deal with this nonsense anymore. 

Can we just take a step back for a second? Can we try a little harder to be a little nicer? You don’t want to leave your house ever? Cool — you do that. You want to go to Sturgis and throw caution to the wind? Cool, you do that. You want to have a gathering outside with a dozen people you haven’t seen in 20 years? Cool — you do that. Let’s start by taking responsibility for the quality of our own handwashing and mask-wearing and let everyone else do the same. 

Albert Lean April Jeppson is a wife, mom, coach and encourager of dreams.