Be careful, and stop the dominoes

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

For the past eight years, during the week of St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve always written a special column about Ireland, my Irish roots, St. Patrick, leprechauns or something having to do with the Emerald Isle.

With today being St. Patrick’s Day and with me being Irish, I felt it important that I try to keep up the tradition and write something having to do with Ireland. But, with the whole coronavirus emergency in our laps I felt that it’s also important to address our national concerns about the spread of the virus.

Addressing both topics will be difficult. As far as I know, St. Patrick’s claim to fame was ridding Ireland of snakes, not viruses.

Based on the most recent executive order from Governor DeWine, there will be no green beer for breakfast on college campuses. There will be no pub crawls on St. Patrick’s Day. Bars will not be decked out with shamrocks and impish leprechauns. New York and Chicago have already cancelled their huge St. Patrick’s Day parades. Even Dublin, Ireland will yield to the microscopic virus and stay off the streets.

Instead of folks dancing, drinking and joking, instead of big celebratory hugs and back-slaps at St. Patrick’s Day parties, if people should happen to step out of their self-imposed isolation and, if they happen to see a friend on St. Patrick’s Day, they will most likely keep their distance and wave. Some brave folks may exchange a fist-bump or elbow-bump. Shoulder-taps and back-slaps will be our new normal this year.

Several people I’ve spoken with think that all these precautions may be an overreaction. I don’t think so.

I spent several decades as a respiratory therapist; we were on the frontlines of dealing with contagious diseases. I remember the fears that spread nationwide as we confronted swine flu, bird flu and even AIDS.

Sixty years ago, there was quite a bit of discussion about the “Domino Effect.” That was part of the rationale for our involvement in Vietnam: the fear was that if one country fell to communism, others would topple. That phenomenon was compared to a line of dominoes falling over one at a time.

We have all played with little domino tiles. We sit them on a flat surface. They need to be set up close enough to barely touch each other. When one falls over, we get to see the true “domino effect.”

We used to make elaborate paths for the dominoes to follow as they fell. The first domino to be pushed over would barely touch the next one, which would continue, one after another, until they had all fallen.

My brother used to bug me because my dominoes would be flopping over perfectly, and he would pick one domino out the line and the entire chain reaction would suddenly stop. I would try it again and he would pluck out a domino again. Little brothers can be so annoying.

Think of the spread of a virus like the toppling of a line of dominoes. The domino-effect will not stop until the chain is broken.

We need to break the chain of infection. Since the spread of this virus is from human-to-human, this can only be done by eliminating human-to-human contact. That’s the reason for all the restrictions imposed by our federal and state governments. They want to break the chain. Hang in there. We will get through it.

This will be the first time that I have recycled something I found on the internet. I would love to be able to give the right person credit, but I have no idea who wrote it. It wasn’t me.

Prayer for a Pandemic

May we who are merely inconvenienced, remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors, remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home, remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children, remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips, remember those who have no safe place to go.

May we who settled in for a quarantine at home, remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country, let us choose love.

During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors. Amen.

If you start suffering serious withdrawal from St. Patrick’s Day celebration, squirt a little green food coloring into your favorite lager. Let’s all be careful out there.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist