By Abe Villarreal

Before our current fears over germs and spacing, coughing and handshaking, most of us still remember a time when we did things that now seem out of the ordinary.

Not just everyday things like greeting people with full-on embraces and bear hugs, but also the kinds of things that got us extra dirty. Fun things and not-so-fun things, but still, everyday things that over generations somehow haven't brought the end to our civilization.

While we work to keep each other safe and take every precaution possible to be healthy, I hope we can go back to the time when everyday, not-so-clean, ordinary ways of living can be done again. I'm thinking of the kinds of little things that make life special which now have become worries even before the pandemic.

Things like people coming together for spur-of-the-moment potlucks. Tables being filled with favorite dishes. Hands grabbing chips. Spoons scooping casseroles. Glasses clinging against each other as cheers are shared. All of this happening as people laugh and focus on big things, celebratory things. No one focused on the tiny specks of the unwanted that cannot be seen.

In what seems like a distant memory, there was a time when it was O.K. to sit next to strangers in crowded buses and subways. I'd like to go back to that time. Those buses and those subways haven't always been the shining examples of purity, and yet we still got on them and got off them without much of a concern.

We learn from each other, strangers and friends alike, when we are in close quarters. We experience how much we have in common, even though we come from different places, and we see how much we are the same. We hear different languages, see unfamiliar customs, appreciate each other a little more.

A lot of what we recognize from each other, over time, has come from being with each other, not from being separate. It has come from sharing customs and traditions that may not be considered practical in this current era.

Growing up, no one wiped down the monkey bars or rushed to our rescue with hand sanitizer after an afternoon of play in the dirt. Our textbooks didn't get much of a cleaning after everyday use for an entire school year.
The makeshift fort your kid built in the backyard couldn't fit more than two people, but still, he managed to squeeze a whole group of kids in there, and they came out O.K.

In cultures outside of our germ-sensitive country, people have traditionally kissed more often during greetings, held each other longer during dances, and even double-dipped from the same bowl of food as a sign of love and respect.

We all have different levels of comfort and feelings of security when it comes to sharing. I'd like to return to a time where smiles could be seen and handshakes could be felt. I'd like to show up to dinner parties without the worry of feeling like the person across from me will do me harm even if he didn't mean it.

I think we'll be better off as a society when can go back to a time when an act of sharing was received kindly and we all assumed that whatever we brought to the table was done with good intentions.

We may have to make some efforts to be healthy again, but we'll get there. When we do, the potlucks will be the best ever. I can't wait.

Abe Villarreal writes about the people, culture, and traditions of America. He can be reached at

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