We live in unusual times.
In the last 12 months we have experienced drought, bushfires and now the Covid19 virus. It has been a challenging time with more to come. The Australian Prime Minister has stated that this will be our toughest year. This is something we have never experienced. The message being delivered to us is to remain at home and only leave for essential purposes, many of our regular activities have been curtailed, meeting in groups is limited and we are instructed to maintain physical distance between ourselves and others.
We have new terms in our lexicon. Social distancing is a term that even a month ago most of us had never heard before.
We are confused and many of us are frightened. The temptation is to view others with suspicion, as potential carriers. If this suspicion remains unchecked, we will start to lose trust in others and our supplies of social capital will diminish.
In times like these we need to conquer our fear. In his farewell address (1961) Dwight D. Eisenhower said “This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.” Although, his context was in terms of the future of the people of the USA his comments are relevant to us today. We cannot let fear overtake us. Once we are dominated by fear we make poor decisions and close others out. We begin to live in a world of us and them and not a world of we.
Maintaining Community in a Time of Social Isolation
As a species we crave connection with others. Our social greetings often involve physical shows of respect and affection. The hug, the handshake and the kiss but in the current pandemic this has changed. We are physically distant from others. How can we maintain and continue to build community through these times?
Fortunately, we are a creative species and many have led the way in creating ways for us to maintain contact and keep our civil society intact. Let’s look at some things we can do to build community in isolation.
The Kindness Card
The Kindness Card has appeared in a few configurations. This is a simple act. A printed or written card delivered in neighbours letterboxes simply stating that if they are isolating help from others is available by emailing or calling the card writer. Simple.
Social media in all its forms has been criticised for isolating us from others, a time waster. But during this time, it is a fantastic way to maintain contact with neighbours and friends. This is so simple to do. Start a private page in Facebook, or other media and invite neighbours to join in. You could do this by simply notifying them through a note in their letterboxes.
Another simple action. Set up a meeting in Zoom or Skype or similar and invite neighbours. Have a regular catch up. The beauty here is that we can see and hear others all from the safety of our home.
Virtual Coffee or Drink Catchup
Similar to teleconferencing. Arrange a time for coffee or drinks with others and use a video messaging or teleconferencing service.
Random Acts of Kindness
Simply, be kind to one another. A phone call, a gift on front step. A caring gesture, especially for vulnerable populations.
Volunteer Kindness and Care Groups
These are springing up in a number of places. An organised care network who are available to assist those isolated or vulnerable with tasks.
Happy Hour Drinks
Many neighbourhoods prior to the pandemic had regular physical catchups and happy hour drink sessions with each other. Some people have continued this by being in their driveway or in their front yard at the same time for catch up drinks. They talk to each other across the road or through the fence. Maintain appropriate distance and still are in contact with each other.
Send emails out to your neighbours throughout the week. Ask how others are going, offer help to others. A little action, but often the small actions are the most powerful.
There are so many things we can be doing, even in isolation to maintain connection with others. Use the technology at our disposal, be there for each other by offering to help where needed, continue to look out for each other. As the Prime Minister of New Zealand said, “Go home tonight and check on your neighbours, start a phone tree with your street, plan how you’ll stay in touch with one another. We will get through this together, but only if we stick together so please be strong and be kind.”