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Life is like a box of conundrums

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Nov 29, 2020

“Conundrum: co-nun-drum; noun. A confusing or difficult problem or question.”

There you go, the official dictionary meaning of the word conundrum, a word that has been a favorite of mine for many years.

One of the reasons it is a word I have always liked is due to one of the additional meanings listed in some dictionaries: “A question asked for amusement, typically one with a pun in its answer; a riddle.”

I will give you an example. What has eyes but cannot see, a tongue but cannot speak and a soul but cannot find love, happiness or peace.

The answer, of course, is a shoe.

It is OK to groan now if you need to. And yes, I am fully aware how the word sole is spelled when referring to a shoe.

So why I am writing about the word conundrum?

Well, ever since about March 13, I feel as though we are living in a world of constant conundrums. In fact, you could call it living in the COVID-19 Conundrum World.

Most of the time we describe a question as a conundrum when it is phrased as, ‘should I do this thing, or not.’ Or what would be the better of two things to do.

Take this past Thanksgiving Day as a example.

Should we get together with our extended families as we normally do, or obey the governor’s executive order and just celebrate with the family who lives with us in the same household.

It is a difficult question. Many folks in Minnesota followed the mandate. Many others probably did not, and decided they were going to travel and see their family members no matter what the consequences may be.

There have been plenty of other conundrums.

Should I go shopping in public or not? Should I wear a mask everywhere I go? Should I travel? Should I visit my relatives or not.

School district leaders have been struggling all year with whether school can be in person or just have distance learning, or maybe something in between. Right now, United South Central in Wells, which had in-person classes for all its students to start the year, now has gone to all distance learning. Blue Earth Area has made a recent decision to stay with their hybrid model at least for one more week, until Dec. 4, when they will have to decide again what to do.

It is hard to fathom how much time the school districts have spent just trying to figure out what they should or should not do. It has certainly added extra strain on administration and staff – not to mention students and parents – as they face this months-long conundrum.

Last summer the County Fair Board had to struggle with the decision whether to have the fair or not. Chambers of Commerce and other civic organizations had to decide whether to have summer celebrations or not.

This fall has seen more of the same. Some events have been held, like Relay for Life, with most of the event being a drive-through.

Some organizers found ways to still hold a cut-down version of an event that could still safely be held with masks and social distancing in place.

Each group had the conundrum of ‘can we do it, should we do it, how to do it.’

Businesses worked with whether to close or not, or how to safely stay open, how employees could work from home and ways to change their business model.

The office door at the Faribault County Register has been locked up a couple of times since the pandemic started, and is closed once again, just in an attempt to keep all the employees safe and healthy.

We have guidelines in place for conducting our business and attempting to continue publishing the newspaper each and every week. Some of the guidelines come from our corporate office, some come from following the governor’s executive orders, and some come from our local staff decisions on what is the best thing to do for us.

We all struggle with the conundrums of should we or shouldn’t we, can we do this or that, or would doing that thing be a dumb thing to do?

In fact, life is always a series of conundrum questions. Should I go to college, get married, get a job or start a business, have children, move away to another state, get a dog, retire or not ­- and many other questions throughout a lifetime.

But 2020 has given us far more conundrums than ever before.

As I sit here writing this column on Thanksgiving Day, because I answered the latest conundrum of should we have our usual big family gathering on Thanksgiving Day or not by saying ‘not,’ I wonder how many more COVID Conundrums we will have still have to face.

Will we have another big decision come time for family Christmas gatherings? Only time will tell.

My wish for you is to always have the correct answer when you face one of these conundrums.

So please stay safe, healthy and wise.