There was nothing electronic about the chicken coop, it didn’t use fuel, and it didn’t need batteries, but it doubled as a helicopter and a Sherman tank. Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s was all about being outdoors. Just like the chicken coop, a cardboard box could be a house, a sled, a car or anything else that could sprout in a child’s imagination.

It wasn’t unusual for mothers to tell their children to go outside and play. Store-bought toys weren’t always available, so children often relied on their imagination for entertainment. Some girls made doll houses out of shoeboxes and some boys clipped noise making cards to their bicycle spokes. Children made everything out of nothing, and books which spawned their imagination took them to interesting places without leaving home.

Of course, there were always footballs, hula hoops, skipping ropes and board games. It wasn’t uncommon for children in the big city to ride a public bus solo, but now, congregating on a bus can be unhealthy and extremely dangerous. They ran, chased lightning bugs, jumped, watched the clouds, and played in streams. For hours at a time, they congregated to play games like Hide and Go Seek, Hop Scotch, Red Rover, Kick the Can or Mother, May I. Lots of children loved to climb trees, roller skate, play in the mud or use sticks to build forts.

What people mostly remember are the fun times, and as they age, the past becomes more attractive. Those were simpler times, but the good old days just might offer clues for the future. Current rules of engagement are different, and the Coronavirus has made congregate an ugly word.

Experts used to warn the public about the downside of living a sedentary life style. Now, watching television or playing video games has an entirely new purpose. Experts say that there is a positive side to children playing video games, because the ability to win involves deep thinking that gives their brain a real workout. They state that video games encourage problem solving, hand-eye coordination, planning and multitasking. In today’s era of Coronavirus, they also give people reasons not to congregate.

In 2016, Psychology Today said that surfing the Internet, playing video games, or texting and social media increase the risk of children being socially incompetent. When anyone hides behind the screen of any electronic device, it increases their risk of becoming socially uncomfortable. Because of the Coronavirus and because millions of people have self-quarantined, social awkwardness, boredom and loneliness will increase.

Years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for people waiting in a line to carry on a conversation. Today, many people push their face deep into their device and stand so far from others that they must shout to be heard. People in the past unconsciously collided with every pedestrian in sight, but today, they keep their distance as though all other people bathe in dog poo.

It has been said that a soft touch never hurt anyone, but these days it can be deadly. Now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of each other. If a trip to the store becomes necessary, consideration can be given to shop for vulnerable relatives or neighbors.

There’s a lot to be said about imagination and the creative ability to assist in establishing a healthy lifestyle and a positive social life. Regardless of age or symptoms, it doesn’t take an imagination for those who can stay home, to stay home. Everyone has earned their “round tuit” to tackle those home honey-do chores that they’ve postponed for years. Use the internet and see the world from home, telephone a loved one, or make something out of nothing. Go outside and play, walk, climb trees, visit a park or drive-in theater, or involve the imagination, because the mind is creative and resourceful. If activity is still needed, exercise wearing ear buds, walk with iPods, or play video games that require players to physically move.

Gathering with others may be second nature, but congregating today is critically chancy. It could be a lot worse, but everyone can make it a lot better. Self-isolate, and don’t innocently and foolishly share the Coronavirus with others.

A note to our readers

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Charlie Sewell is a retired Powder Springs police chief who lives in Cherokee County. His book “I’d Rather You Call Me Charlie: Reminiscences Filled With Twists of Devilment, Devotion and A Little Danger” is available on Amazon. Email him at retiredchiefsewell@gmail.com.

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