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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: A Mystery Without Enough Clues

Tommy Tomlinson

Almost every time I get wound up over something – or as my wife’s family would put it, when I start borrowing trouble – it’s because of one thing: incomplete information.

The less I know about something, the more my mind fills in the gaps with half-baked theories and speculation and fear. Once I have enough pieces of the puzzle, I start to calm down.

The problem we have in these virus days is that we don’t know for sure how big the puzzle is, or the shapes of the pieces, or even what the puzzle is supposed to look like.

There are different estimates on when the virus will peak and different estimates on how many people might die. There’s good news about the growth of cases starting to slow in some places, and bad news about outbreaks in places like nursing homes. Nobody has a clear idea when we’ll be able to live anything close to a normal life again. Not even Google knows.

Most every morning, as we’re reading the paper, Alix’s mom looks over and says: “So when do they think this will be over now?” We give the same reply every day. Shrugged shoulders. Not for a while. It’s not a comforting answer for any of us.

And we’re a stable family with food and lights. Some people who were right on the edge already woke up Monday morning to a storm that knocked out their power. Thousands of people in our city have lost their jobs and are running out of money. Forget living paycheck to paycheck. They’re living sunset to sunset.

Our system isn’t built for this. In farm country, farmers are plowing under fields and pouring out millions of gallons of milk because they don’t have anywhere to sell it. And in cities, hungry people line up at food banks for hours. Our government doesn’t have the speed and efficiency to connect the dots.

I think we all fall victim sometimes to wishing life were simpler than it is. We want to believe we can get through it with clear eyes and full hearts, with thoughts and prayers alone.

But I hope one thing this virus has taught us is the power of information – clear data, shared transparently, put in context. That’s what would clear my eyes and fill my heart. Knowing something we didn’t know yesterday. Learning enough to get us through.


Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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