Today, many are feeling more connected than ever to their family, friends and community 

It’s hard to believe the world has literally stopped.  

For the first time in its history, New York City deliberately shut down its entire subway system for deep cleaning. 

It doesn’t matter where you live. There’s less traffic and only essential workers are commuting. The majority of retail stores are closed and clothes and other products are frozen in place. 

Our rushed and busy lives have immediately shifted from warp speed to the pace of a caterpillar. Our environments shrank overnight to the size of our homes. No more need for GPS (nowhere to go), Find my Friends (they are all at home) or voicemail (everyone picks up their phone).  

The rhythms of everyday life have been obliterated, leaving us stuck in our homes. Many of us are alone. While we’ve been concerned about the effects of isolation for older adults for years and know it’s associated with an estimated $6.7 million in additional Medicare spending annually, most of us couldn’t relate to that. We can now. We see how isolation affects us. 

There is anxiety. There is loneliness. And ignoring the need for connection right now is not good for us. It can exacerbate the negative effects of stress and affect our physical and mental resilience to cope. 

But there is hope, too. 

For most of us, we’re facing a new lifestyle with an abundance of time and less deadlines – something in short supply just 2 months ago.  Now we wake up every morning and have “all the time in the world.”  

Amid social distancing and quarantine, people have rekindled friendships and grown closer to neighbors.

And when someone asks “How have you been?” we no longer hear the common answer “I’ve been really busy,” but rather a personal response about how we are truly feeling. 

It’s my hope we remember to give more authentic answers to typical questions like this when life speeds up again. 

After the pandemic, around the world, there may be changes in how we greet each other – handshakes, which were typically used to establish trust – may be replaced with something else. But that doesn’t mean we let go of what we learn through this time about being connected and more real in our lives, our businesses and our conversations later. 

Technology is helping.

Unlike how our ancestors dealt with epidemics like Ebola, we have technology and social media to help us connect. According to a survey by the Pew Foundation in April, 53 percent of Americans say the Internet has been essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With our expanded personal time, old friends are rebonding on Zoom meetings, cocktails and reunions – after years of being out of touch. Family members are connecting with each other more through check-in calls, FaceTime conversations and are celebrating milestones together on Zoom or in drive bys. Neighbors are not just waving. They’re chatting across the street and offering to help. 

People are showing up to support and raise the spirits of essential workers they may not even know – with entire blocks breaking out in a chorus of pan applause and neighborhood singing.  

Strangers are reaching out to each other:

Kyle West, 23, a Cincinnati mailman, recently dropped off notes to people on his route offering to get essential items for anyone in need. “If you are at risk and need help getting essential items let me know,” he wrote. “I will do what I can to help.” He signed the note “Mailman Kyle.”  Many people who live in the over 900 homes on Kyle’s route make less than $30,000 a year, are older, or have disabilities, ABC’s “Good Morning America” reported.  Almost all of them responded with a request.

Along with all the tragedy of this pandemic, we are being given a gift.

This new-found time is giving us a chance to step back from our hectic schedules to realize how important people in our lives are – both present and past – and to reflect on how we are so interconnected. In our current isolation and shelter-in-place restrictions, we have the time to reach out to rekindle and strengthen those relationships. 

So let’s be creative! It’s our time to stack the deck with evidence that human connection transcends physical distance.

Highlight of the Week: Happy Hour!

There are many creative ways to connect with your neighbors in quarantine. Check this one out. 

“Saluti!”  A dozen Italian neighbors found a way to toast each other and click glasses from their balconies and 6 feet apart. Bringing them a feeling of  “closeness” through cheers in a Happy Hour celebration. [Source: ABC News]

Challenge of the Week

Let’s not take this time for granted, constantly fixed on “when will this be over?” The time will come, eventually when we’ll be back to our busy, overscheduled lives.

So I challenge you: Who do you want to reconnect with?  What kindness can you bring to your relationships? 

Inspiration for your kindness. 

The family of a man who died from COVID-19 requested the public to build something beautiful to honor him. Instead of flowers or cards, they asked people to connect with others through acts of kindness.

Please share your stories, photos and videos of your re-connections and acts of kindness with us! Big or small, we’d love to hear them all and feature them here.

– Kendall Webb, JustGive Founder and Executive Director

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