Is American optimism waning in the face of the daily pandemic news? Each day is filled with stories of suffering ― illness, death, and financial tragedy ― as Americans fight COVID-19. But I offer that the zeitgeist of 21st century America is characterized largely by positive actions ― making America better ― as Alexis de Tocqueville observed about Americans in the 19th century.


Our response to the pandemic must continue to concentrate on the essential needs of humanity. As we move toward recovery efforts, we can advance needs that seem necessary (important), but are non-essential. Desirable wants will come in time.


As noted by Timothy Egan in “A Pilgrimage to Eternity,” we are going to be fine if we continue to value, as his daughter did, “family, friends, love, community, lifelong learning, continuous self-improvement, reflection, creative expression, empathy, care of the natural world and all the creatures who inhabit it.”


Foremost on our minds is that we care for our physical, emotional and financial health. People are not suffering equally, so it is essential that we continue to bring together family and friends even as we are required to be apart by social distancing. Shared sacrifice is where we gain the strength to endure.


This helps stop the spread of anxiety and helps us remember the countless positive experiences that we can see around us. We are making the best out of a solemn moment, yet it’s all right to laugh and love, too.


My daughter, Melissa, a registered nurse, pledged to be a patient’s line of defense as did Ambrey and Kiersten, my daughters-in-law who are RNs, as well as my granddaughter Raelyn, who will be a nurse soon. They, and many other medical professionals, are devoted to the welfare of those committed to their care.


The essential duty we all share is to sustain a healthy America by making sure everyone, even the homeless and poor, can get the health care they need during and after this crisis.


Learning the three Rs ― reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic ― is essential. Even my children who are educators find it difficult to teach their children at home. Imagine the chaotic circumstances of a single parent who has to work from home, teach and care for others.


And what if a household does not have a computer or computer access to daily or weekly lessons? As troublesome but real is the household with one computer and a large number of young children to teach.


My advice to my children has been to facilitate one essential subject a day along with some activity ― explore nature, exercise, draw or listen to music. Students can catch-up next school year on necessary but non-essential subjects.


Small business is big business. It is essential to continue to shop local. If you order out, tip big. My son, who is a banker in Ft. Collins, is on the front line of implementing the stimulus package for small businesses. He feels good about what he does, but sometimes shakes his head at the bureaucratic confusion. During the crisis, why can’t we guarantee monthly payments for each person and paid family leave?


During our stay-at-home order where do those without a home stay? I am reminded to give to those less fortunate, then give more, and then give again until it hurts. The Pueblo Community Soup Kitchen is in need of contributions. Let’s make sure no one goes hungry. It is essential that those in poverty have a place to stay and food to eat.


It is essential to pause all election campaigning and elections for the time being. Even though an election may allow mail-in ballots, the minds of our community members are not on the nuances of election issues.


Instead, it is essential to be discussing the kind of federal aid that is critical for our cities, counties and state as government revenues are predicated to decline dramatically, cutting into basic, essential services like our investment in public health.


As we move toward recovery, we can learn from the pandemic and reinforce our American spirit by developing a blueprint for how to live a life of meaning, creating thriving communities built around our health, fraternity and love.


Bill Thiebaut served in the Colorado General Assembly from 1987 to 2002,and was the Colorado Senate Majority Leader from 2000 to 2002. He served as Pueblo district attorney from 2005 to 2012 and is the chair of the Transportation Commission of Colorado.