Connections shine through in our distance amid COVID-19

Physical distance does not mean socially ostracizing

I live alone and up until very recently had a tremendously social job. Handshakes were normal protocol before I would flip my phone over, ask “May I record our chat?” and make conversational eye contact with interviewees, day-in, day-out.

Needless to say, doing everything over the phone for the past couple weeks has been quite an odd shift. I already feel disconnected, and I’m sure you do too. Disconnected from the words you’re hearing and from the people whose stories you’re listening too. Frankly, this whole thing (*gestures broadly) has thrown me for quite the loop. It’s also made me finally dig out my sewing machine from the storage closet and fix a couple sweaters and a pair of pants.

The measures we’ve collectively implemented to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have now also shown us all just how much we might value connection. Like, real, honest-to-goodness, face-to-face interactions.

I’ll give you an example. On Saturday, I met over Zoom (a video conferencing platform) with some friends from university. Now, most of them live and work in Ontario anyways so it’s not like I would have seen them anytime soon even if things were normal. Nevertheless, I do feel the presence of the #StayHome messaging that can, I think, create a sort of psychological gulf. Knowing that we can’t do something makes us miss what we may not have done anyways, but all the while still would have had the freedom to do in a “normal” world.

To be very clear here: Stay. Home. I buy fully into the messaging (to the point where I’ve had canned herring on hardbread for dinner more than twice this week – we’re getting that deep into the cupboard) and am a strong advocate for it (herring and physical distancing), but I think it’s important to recognize what our current state of affairs takes away so that we can accommodate accordingly.

If nothing else, this period will likely force some concerted introspection and self-awareness upon many of us. (My goodness, do I really touch my face that much?)

But it’s also forced us together, or for some hold-outs, is in the process of forcing us together. Let’s appreciate for a second that, beyond the few people who bought out Costco-sized stocks of cleaning products to flip and sell at high mark-ups, the vast majority of people in the world have coalesced around the idea that we need to protect one another from the effects of the virus. By staying home, or staying away, by shopping for vulnerable relatives and calling old friends and checking on our neighbours and acquaintances – there are so many actions that have been undertaken at the expense of one’s own day-to-day wellbeing, for the sake of the collective.

I think no further than our local businesses, many shuttered or restricted by law right now, for the good of us. Remember them, support them through gift cards and future patronage if you can – they are your neighbours, they employ your friends and family and they help our community’s heart beat. There are also people who have lost their resources – the library and the recreation facilities (companionship, reading materials, exercise, a clean washroom), for example. Let’s not now conflate physical distancing for socially ostracizing.

On Sunday I went for a walk as the late-afternoon sun sank behind the mountains. At the hospital’s doorstep there were some fantastic new ornaments. Tangible, real, up-close and human messages painted daintily on rocks. It was nice to feel that connection in reading them, feeling the genuine appreciation their creators had, and wonderful to read the community’s collective appreciation on a few stones.

Stay well, take care of yourself and others, and remember your community’s very much still here.


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