Over the past two weeks, a new term has erupted in everyday speech. Social Distancing. That’s what we are all supposed to do. But that’s exactly what we should NOT do.
What we should do is practice physical distancing. Yes, we should not shake hands, gather in crowds, hug, or go to work when sick. But socially, now is the time to be close. And with our technology, we can do it.
For the past two Sundays, my church has held its services on YouTube. I was skeptical but found it works amazingly well. Not only do we hear a sermon and readings, we sing together, individuals offer their joys and concerns on the chat feature, and others send their sympathies or congratulations. At the most recent service, we switched to Zoom for the “coffee hour” after the service for conversations. We are staying close as a community just when we need it most.
My kids live far away, but I’m practicing social closeness with them, too. I’m used to many phone calls with my younger daughter. Now we do them on Zoom—it’s like sitting in the same room. My older daughter likes to text—including with photographs and videos. We stay close.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, NextDoor, email, blogs. All these are ways to stay in contact and support one another. Even old-fashioned letters or cards strengthen the connection.
At this time of enormous stress, fear, and uncertainty, social isolation is dangerous to our well-being. Although we can’t experience closeness through jostling each other at a game, applauding together at a play, lingering over an intimate meal at a restaurant, we can use every tool available to stay socially close. We need each other now more than ever while staying physically distant.
Fran Korten is a contributing editor for YES! Magazine, writing about opportunities to advance a progressive agenda in politics, economics, and the environment.