The global pandemic has radically shifted the ways we connect—and can’t connect—with our neighbors. The Streetside Conversations team put out a call to find out how folks around the world are experiencing community. We wanted to know: how have you joined with others to sustain or deepen community during our collective crisis? What has the experience of physical distancing taught you?
Here are a few of the reflections and stories we received.
“Physical distancing has provided insight into the complexities of relationships. Body language, tone, ability to multitask (manage children demanding a snack while conversing with a friend), silence. We don’t think of these as critical pieces of a relationship or dialogue and yet when we try to do it over video, we find that the positive feedback is lacking.
I have connected with friends far and wide that I haven’t spoken to in months or years. It used to take effort and scheduling to connect, and now we just pick up the phone (or zoom) and call. It was something I didn’t know I was missing till it came back. I call my siblings more. The reservation is gone for everyone. People just want connection. Covid-19 has been the key to stripping down social barriers, revealing that without the busyness of life, authentic relationships stand the test of time.”
-Beth Galster, Canada
“Physical distancing has taken on a new meaning for our family. I have been sick for 5 weeks. My husband is a high school teacher and an ICU nurse. He is caring for COVID-19 patients and is nervous to give it to me since my immune system is compromised.
It’s likely that I had the virus although my test was negative. The doctor thought I had a mild case based on my symptoms. So we made the difficult decision to quarantine my husband from me and our 2 kids that are at home since he is actively caring for COVID patients. I am sleeping on a mattress in the dining room and he crawls in and out our window. We have spent quite a bit of time together in the front yard, socially distanced.
The hardest part has not been able to touch each other. He has had some hard days and I just want to wrap him in my arms and hold him. He hates the separation, but wants to do everything in his power to protect me from getting sicker.
We all miss seeing our friends, especially my highly extroverted 16 year old son. My 14 year old daughter asked if I needed someone to go the the doctor’s office with me a few weeks ago, now that is desperation for social contact. I am hopeful that this will be a hard-earned lesson in the power of friendship and community. That we will not forget in our lifetime how important and healing a simple gesture of a loving touch or hug can be.”
-Kathy Blair, United States
Staying connected with my church group has been helpful for my personal health and also given me a chance to stay up to date on the situations of others and how I can be praying for them. My nursing school friends and I have stayed in contact through our group text. Even via text, it is helpful to know that fellow classmates are also struggling to find motivation in virtual studies, frustrated about not getting to work and help people as we are being trained to in this time, and getting creative with ways to stay connected and stay sane.
This time of physical distancing has helped me appreciate physical presence so much more. Before the pandemic, I may have chosen a phone call over an in-person meeting at times, for convenience or avoiding potential awkward silences. Now, although I appreciate phone calls more than ever, I would definitely choose in-person time. Physical distancing has filled community time with words and images, yet in-person community does not need to be filled with anything but presence to be meaningful.
-Meg Hutton, Chicago, United States
I came from a foreign country to the nation where I have been living for a few years now. To have people I could call family had been very important since the beginning.As a family, something we enjoy is having people around the table. And we have had numerous opportunities in the past to be able to do that.
I suppose the initial weeks of quarantine for many of us had been quite stressful. While some were still cheerful and not worried, there were others that were anxious and fearful. Connections mattered and the way we connected mattered even more. I found myself going back in history to the days of the barter system, trading with the people around me. All of a sudden we started looking out for one another.
How have you dealt with distancing? How have you experienced community during quarantine? What is the COVID-19 crisis teaching you about practicing justice?
Learn how you can submit your story here.