Scroll too fast and you’ll miss it, but there’s a police station sending a beam of thoughtful inspiration along the information superhighway that’s often littered with negativity.
“It is not this pandemic, but rather our attitude as we endured it, which will shape the stories we tell future generations,” the Superior Police Department’s Facebook page read last month. “For as much as the strategy for combating COVID-19 is about keeping our distances from one another, our global togetherness throughout this disaster has been nothing short of extraordinary.”
Nearly every day since the pandemic started reshaping reality, the northwestern Wisconsin city’s law enforcement agency has offered a hopeful prism through which to view unprecedented times.
The idea, the author said, was to “turn to the kindness and good things I saw around me, rather than the sort of things everyone else has focused on.”
“In keeping spirits up and having empathetic messages and messages of encouragement, we’re letting the community know we’re with them and here for them,” said Marc Letendre, a detective and public information officer with the department. “This common suffering really brings us together as human beings.”
On Thursday, Wisconsin was thrown into chaos as businesses were suddenly allowed to reopen and local officials raced to put regulations in place to keep the spread of COVID-19 at bay. Some bars were quickly packed while other businesses were anxious about reopening too soon.
About that, Letendre wrote: “As we continue working towards putting this pandemic in our rear-view mirrors, Wisconsin has the opportunity to be a model for a disciplined transition to recovery — let’s step up to the challenge.”
In March, he wrote about the legend of Sisyphus: “It is the process that gives life meaning. And it is our shared experience — that life is challenging — that bonds us together as a world community.”
In April, there was a treatise on coexistence: “We are all linked in this pandemic. We are all impacted. We are all working towards good solutions.”
Letendre has been with the department for about a decade and has trained as a firefighter and paramedic. He is a St. John’s University graduate who studied psychology and philosophy with a deep interest in disasters and crisis management.
This crisis stands out “because it doesn’t last for hours or days like most do,” he said. “We’re all enduring hardship.”
Residents and other followers have, for the most part, been thankful to see the posts, though the occasional squabble breaks out in the comments.
“If someone gets anything positive out of these posts, then that’s a mission accomplished,” Letendre said. “Here’s a little something positive to focus on for another day, because tomorrow we’re going to go through this again.”
Even as restrictions are lifted, it could take awhile to feel normal again — or arrive at a new normal, as he has written, and will continue to write.
“America fought and prevailed in WWI, endured the Great Depression, and fought and prevailed in WWII. We did this by putting one foot in front of the other until we walked ourselves out of the crisis. And then we redefined normal. And we will do it again.”