Why is it you never miss things or people until they are gone or unavailable? When I think of all the times I complained about my students, my co-workers, or even my family, it seems ridiculous now. No doubt, I took their presence for granted. No doubt, I discounted the value of their connection to my life. Funny how we lie to ourselves. In honesty, after small breaks I was always ready to go back to work. After several days of vacation or time at home, I was always ready to return to my routine, my kids, and my people. That’s the thing! We all have our people.
All of our daily routines are connected to people whether they are co-workers, children, clients, siblings, competitors, bosses, or spouses. People connect us to our purpose. People enhance our identity and inform our desires. Okay, maybe that’s a little too poetic, after all that’s my niche. The fact is we have a innate need to connect and that need is suffering from “social distancing” and “sheltering in.” That’s why we need to find creative ways to connect even during these Conronavirus days.
We need to make connections beyond texting and emails; we need to connect with human voices and faces. Don’t get me wrong, I love Facetime, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Duo, and all the other techno-means of contacting people. However, I’m talking about more than that. For example, neighbors can schedule times to meet in their front yards or over the back fence. Or you can stand 6 feet from grandma’s open window or six parking spaces from your best friend in the school parking lot. Perhaps you could have a four corners’ community meeting at the four-way stop in your neighborhood. Each family takes a corner so the children get to talk and see each other as well. Today, I met a dear friend in the parking lot of the grocery store, we both stayed in our cars and caught up on our families’ well-being.
Even though we are nervous about contact with others, most of us are still in contact with others in some form such as: doctor’s appointments, essential shopping, and contact with repair people. Asking and listening to the answer of the question, “how are you?” is important. While taking the time to talk to cashiers, or restaurant workers isn’t a deep heartfelt connection; it is still an important human connection. Sharing sincere appreciation for someone’s service is a much needed connection in times like these. All it takes is a little empathy and compassion.
Before COVID 19, we all had a network of friends, family, and even commercial partners in the marketplace (like my hairstylist, nail tech, and mechanic). These are essential connections. Some psychologists believe they are necessary for our mental health as well. Through these connections we become inspired and motivated to fulfill our purpose (dreams, goals, callings, niches). They reinforce our sense of self and increase our acceptance of others. We feel fulfilled emotionally and socially when we have these connections. We also feel safe and whole when we are connected to our people, our community of significant others. (Wow, that’s a little preachy.) Our need for connection is real is all I’m really trying to say.
Our need for connection with others is a real need, and we shouldn’t give up on it easily. We can use our creativity to communicate with others. If you have elders in your life, as I do, here’s one last way to connect. My mom is 89 and she loves letters and cards. She is from that generation where handwritten letters demonstrated the genuineness of the relationship. In fact, she has a little keepsake box of letters she has received over the years. So you can connect through handwritten letters, to protect the most vulnerable in our lives. Don’t forget to add some pictures.
One time there was someone very close to me in jail. They felt isolated and I felt helplessly locked out of their lives. I was shocked to see how much it meant to both us to talk through the glass and press our palms together on it. Just those few minutes each week gave us both hope and kept our relationship in tact. Our need for connection was somehow fulfilled just by laying eyes on one another and hearing each other’s voice. COVID 19 has us behind the glass, but it doesn’t mean we can’t find a way to connect.