LAKE WACCAMAW, N.C. — You might not know much about Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina. Maybe you've heard of the lake itself, a place known for fossils, fishing, and fun. It's about 40 miles west of Wilmington, 45 miles southeast of Lumberton. The town has a population of no more than 1,500 people.
Lake Waccamaw is small, but a brief moment shared there on Monday may touch the soul of a nation.
The coronavirus, or COVID-19, is spurring significant change all over the country. Millions are feeling it, from Washington to Maine, from Murphy to Manteo, from Charlotte to Raleigh and to Lake Waccamaw.
Shelton lives at a senior center in the small town, Premier Living & Rehab Center. His granddaughter, Carly, visits him all the time. The staff there says she's very involved in her grandfather's care.
On Monday, Carly came to visit and she had some big news, she's engaged. But this visit wouldn't be like the others. She wouldn't be able to tell this story like the hundreds she's told before.
Carly's grandpa Shelton is like millions of seniors across the United States. The coronavirus is a legitimate, serious concern to his long term health. New rules and regulations are being made with him and his peers in mind.
Premier Living & Rehab started enforcing strict visitation policies last week. Visitors are only allowed in an end-of-life circumstance on a case-by-case basis. They put the letter from DHHS on the front door so everyone is aware.
With the restrictions in place, Carly wasn't allowed in her grandpa's room on Monday, but keeping the good news from him wasn't an option.
Carly found the window to Shelton's room. She held up her hand, pointing to the ring on her finger. She's getting married.
Instead of hugs, they shared smiles and a few happy tears, pressing their hands against the window.
It's a touching moment and a heartwarming, heartbreaking picture, but it's more than that.
It perfectly illustrates what we're going through right now with coronavirus. Older people kept inside, sheltered from the danger. Younger people still outside, taking on what's next. But there's something in between: a thin, clear pane of glass.
On one side is a person with a risk. On the other, is a person with a responsibility.
To my fellow young people, we can't go inside the nursing home right now. It's sad. It's annoying. It's scary. I get it.
But when I look at Carly and Shelton, there's no doubt in my mind the thin pane of glass is important and necessary.
We can't go inside the nursing home right now, but we can stand at the window. We can look through the glass at our friend, neighbor, loved one or grandparent, and recognize the risk as well as the responsibility.