Have Compassion, Not Fear

“Can we come up this weekend to open our cabin and do some spring cleaning?”

The question was addressed in an email to Dave Lienau, the Door County Board chair who is getting exasperated with these queries. “No, stay home. Follow the governor’s orders, and stick to essential travel only,” he responded. 

At this point, we shouldn’t have to answer these questions anymore, Lienau told the Sister Bay Village Board on Tuesday. He’s right. Like him and anyone else who has watched the spread of the novel coronavirus, I get frustrated with those who continue to defy the guidance of health experts by traveling throughout the country, including to Door County. 

But I also get it. I get why people yearn to return to their homes and the friends they consider to be more their neighbors than the ones who live next door to them in the suburbs or cities. I get why, in a time of crisis, there’s no place they’d rather be than the place so many people include in their obituaries when they have but a few hundred words to sum up their time on the planet. 

I also get the anger that so many of my friends display on social media, frustrated at seeing empty grocery store shelves and parking lots full of out-of-state plates. 

But there’s something we’re forgetting in our anger. When the New York Times wrote that we in Door County are “protecting our own,” I heard from many people who understood but were deeply hurt.

“I always thought I was one of your own,” wrote one woman who has spent summers here for decades and who has respected the order to stay home – as much as Door County calls to her more now than ever. 

That woman is one of our own. And so are all the others we welcomed with open arms when we wanted them in our restaurants, hotels and seats. That feeling that people have about Door County is what makes this destination different from so many others. Let’s not lose sight of that. And let’s not let fear overcome compassion. 

People should stay put right now at home and get through this without risking the safety of others. But the fact that people – in the midst of the greatest crisis of our lifetimes, when they are most scared – see safety and comfort in Door County is perhaps the greatest compliment our community could be paid. 

During the weeks and months ahead, in our actions and in our words on social media and elsewhere, let’s prove we deserve it. 

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