During this time of distance, I don’t know that I have ever felt more connected. It is rare that we so universally acknowledge, without cynicism or sarcasm, how much we need one another. We have been so polarized of late, all quick to state our opinions and beliefs with self-righteous indignation should anyone choose to believe differently.
And yet, we know how to come together when it’s important, even when “coming together” can’t be done in a physical sense.
One of my friends texts daily pictures of the different flowers opening their buds somewhere in her vast garden. She, whom I have known for years, is a wealth of garden knowledge, a subject we never broached before. (Did you know you can shave Irish Spring soap over tulips to keep the deer away?) Flowers I hadn’t heard of before, or just didn’t take the time to notice, are admired by a group of “weekly tea ladies” over phones and iPads.
I walk nearly every day in our neighborhood. Someone has painted small, smooth stones to make them look like Easter eggs, and scattered them about near the curb. Not many, just a few—and fewer all the time as I imagine people occasionally can’t resist picking one up and pocketing it. There’s a story there, one made more fun by not knowing it.
People from our church delivered palms to everyone in the congregation, tied together with a prayer. My friend Jan delivered ours, and stood far away as I opened the door.
“Happy Palm Sunday,” she called out. “Hang it on your door!” We did as she instructed and it warms me every time I catch sight of it.
My sister, a Mayor in Aurora, asked everyone to participate in a nightly “Hello, Neighbor!” No one leaves their driveway, but they take the time to check on one another, to exchange stories or news or rumors. People who didn’t use to say more than a quick “hi” are taking time and care to make connection.
There are the quiet stories that play out in front of you; life happening in real time. I watched a young father teaching his daughter how to ride a bike without training wheels for the first time. I saw him run alongside, clapping as she wobbled along on their driveway—and later in the week, I saw him simply standing in the front yard as she rode off around a corner.
I have several friends making face masks. One is sewing “designer masks” for all her kids and grandkids and another is donating all she makes. A third actually got the specifications to make medical masks and bought a 3D printer to do just that. After he gets it down pat, he says he’s going to go to a tech mall near us and teach them how to do it as well.
During Marc’s seven-day work stretch last week, the pharmacists all bought the pharm techs lunch. Their last day of work, someone played “One Day More” from Les Mis at full volume. They are finding little ways to make everyone feel valued and appreciated, to let them know their work is important. Others are as well—I can’t tell you how many people ask how things are going at the hospital; if the work is overwhelming (not yet), and if Marc is doing all right (he is, thank you!)
I have several FaceTime/Google Hangouts/Zoom chats set up with different people. While we oldsters have pondered how the Internet has fundamentally changed how people interact, it is through the Internet that we can interact. I have been sent so many uplifting links, ones touching and beautiful and funny. Each one is designed to make us feel less lonely, less sad, less stressed.
Is this a tough time? Absolutely. Tough for those with young kids whom they’re trying to home-school. Tough for our most elderly, alone and cut off in senior living communities. Tough for those who are sick and for the families that love them. Tough for health workers and for first responders. Tough for people out of work.
I pray for all of these people. I pray for you. I hope that your life is touched by the small acts of kindness and connection that are happening all around us, and I hope that it eases the burden, even if it’s just a little bit.
I think, perhaps, I will go look for some small smooth stones and paint them, to drop along the way during tomorrow’s walk.