Several weeks ago, like many others in our area and beyond, I was informed that our company had decided it would be beneficial for any employee with the ability to do so should work from home. 

I must say that I was of two minds concerning this, but considering that I did possess the ability to work from my home and I desired to maintain a salary, I chose to give my assent. The chauffeur was not working on that particular day, and so this change began with the unfortunate necessity of my having to load both my laptop computer and my Mothman coffee cup into my conveyance without assistance. Here begins my journey into the work from home demographic.

My home, stately Romans Manor, is the crown jewel of my sprawling 14,000-square foot estate (jealousy, I hope, is beneath my readers) located along the mighty Tygarts Creek in Greenup County. The manse’s own prodigious 1,200 square feet occupies a somewhat central location upon the grounds and is complimented by an additional structure designed to accommodate both vehicles and the necessary implements required for estate maintenance. Were I to regularly wear a hat, here is where I would hang it.

I was met in the manor’s entryway by my faithful hound, a handsome fellow whose pedigree can be traced through all the finest free-range breeds in the area. He gave me a look which seemed to say, “I see you have returned. Does this mean I should expect some sort of mutually reciprocal activity, perhaps followed by a toothsome tidbit?” He is an insistent sort, perhaps trained by Master Gandalf himself in Moiria, and would not budge; though once I assured him in the affirmative, he did allow me to pass.

Upon learning of my change in regular activities, my amazing and long-suffering spouse recommended I take advantage of the manor’s only partially utilized southern wing to continue my trade. Thereupon followed a seemingly interminable time of rearranging those treasures for which we had no immediate use, but were hesitant to relinquish, and thereby lose forever. In the end, however, I persevered and was able to continue to fulfill my daily duties. It was an equitable arrangement, after all, but I must confess that sometimes I feel lost in the whispers of my now slippered feet echoing from the manor’s cavernous 8-foot ceilings ...

Those who have read my columns in the past (perhaps as part of a Cold War-esque torture) will hopefully forgive my attempts at humor. There are, I know, apartments that are much larger than “stately Romans Manor” and houses much larger than my entire “estate.” Still, regardless of the amount of space we have, being forced to occupy the same space without a means to escape it can be maddening at times, leaving us feeling trapped in a cage, even if that cage might be gilded. But when we feel this way, it might help to exercise a little perspective. And with that perspective, perhaps a little bit of gratitude. I will even help us get started.

I am grateful that I have a job that allows me to continue working when so many people have been laid off or simply let go as businesses struggle with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. I am grateful to have a home when so many people are homeless — and I am also grateful that home has a yard with green, growing things, even if a lot of them are weeds. I am grateful to have a place to go stir-crazy and someone with whom to be crazy. And I am grateful to see so many people of all ages and from all walks of life trying their best to be kind human beings after their world has been turned upside down.

Life has gotten a lot harder for a lot of people all around the world, and only determination and basic human kindness will help us get through it. I joke about stately Romans Manor, but there are people in Hong Kong right now who have been forced to self-isolate in apartments (called, literally, Cage Apartments) which are only 100 square feet in size — no kitchen, and the bathroom is communal. But they endure, try to be kind to each other, and they hope for better days. FYI, 140 of these cage apartments would fit in my yard; and that is if they only occupied one story.

So yes, I am grateful. And I try to — choose to — realize that I am fortunate enough to be able to do things like walk out on my back porch, even if I have done it a hundred times recently, and breathe fresh air. It is, I believe, a gift. It may not be a gift I deserve, and certainly it isn’t one I deserve more than any other human being on the planet, but it is a gift for which I am grateful.

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