No journalism class has ever suggested the use of “Hello! How are you doing?” as the ideal example of a gripping lead.  But this isn’t journalism class.  I’m offering a sincere “Hello! How are you doing?” because I mean it.  I’m sitting here at my kitchen table, where I’ve been doing a lot of writing (and even painting) these days. (Yes, that’s my work you see here.)  My dogs are peacefully snoozing at my feet, and I’m feeling pretty content overall.  However…

Just a little sample of one of my Pandemic watercolors.

I freely admit that I miss human contact.  So, I’m asking you with all sincerity, “How are you doing right now, in the midst of Week Number I-Can’t-Keep-Count-Anymore? How are you staying busy? What’s different? Worse? Better? What’s making you laugh, cry, worry, eat too many Doritos? What can I do for you to make things better?”  (That’s your cue to call, email, simply leave a comment below. Please, I beseech you!)

Seriously, though…

As This Situation has unfolded, surreal and disorienting as it has been, I’ve seen and experienced some stellar examples of people who are taking extra care to stay busy, cheerful, supportive, and, yes, even socially connected. These Beacons of Light are doing things like:

  • Making friendly phone calls:  The kind that don’t have to be scheduled. There’s no agenda and for sure no selling. Just a simple call that says:  “Hello, I was thinking about you. How are you? What’s new? Need anything?”
  • Penning and sending a truly personal email (and not one that claims to be personal, but really isn’t. Geez, who do they think they are fooling?)
  • Or better yet, writing a handwritten, snail mail note
  • Stopping what they are doing for a quick (safe distance) chat
  • Making sure anyone in their presence is left feeling better, lighter, warmer inside (even if we all have to sit or stand six feet apart and are running around looking like bank robbers)

All these simple social social graces seem all the more important in these uncertain times, don’t they?  Or am I the only one?

When I’m out walking my dogs each morning and evening, I generally pass several neighbors who are also walking (and generally keeping a safe distance). I’m pleased – thrilled, actually – to discover that more than half of my fellow walkers are willing to offer (or at least return) a friendly wave, a  hearty “Good morning!” or other greeting.  Sometimes we even pause and chat for a few moments. It’s really lovely and brightens the day.  Especially now.

I now know that the guy in the white t-shirt and blue shorts walks five miles every morning.  Another adorable “little old man” (hah) walks for two and half hours each day. I know that the guy around the corner’s name is Bruce. His dog’s name is Harper. Down past his house there’s a big, friendly, and very regal Great Pyrenees whose name is Louie (or maybe it’s Louis, pronounced the French way).  The guys that moved into and renovated the house that used to be just kind of “meh,” but now looks like something off HGTV, are Chad and Justin.  I’ve lived in my home nearly 25 years and am meeting some of these folks for the very first time!

Then, in contrast, are the soul-shriveling,  affected, fear-filled folks who are making sure to not only keep a safe distance, but to make sure no socialization whatsoever – not even eye contact – takes place.  One couple I see several times a week goes to ridiculous extremes.  Even from a very safe distance  – we’re talking 50+ yards –  they pull over onto the nearest yard, turn their backs to you (with hands firmly and authoritatively on hips) and remain in this “pose of protection” until I’m “safely” out of range.  While part of me is amused by and sympathetic to this eccentric behavior, the other part of me feels…rejected.  Even a little shunned.

Is anyone else out there having these experiences?  Where social distancing is in some ways enhancing life, yet also making it sadder and lonely?

I’m wondering, what kind of Pandemic Persona are you choosing to take on?  One who is rising up and making someone’s day brighter in some small, creative or even quirky way? (I like quirky, by the way!)  Or one who is allowing this whole social distancing thing to get way out of hand?  I’m trying very hard to be the former.  Not perfect, for sure, but I’m trying. So along those lines…

Tonight, if it’s a pretty evening, I’m going to pour a glass of nice wine and drag a lounge chair out into my front driveway.  I’m going to have a good brisk sit and see who walks by. I will wonder who I will see or meet and raise my glass to that person – from a safe distance, of course.  I know I have many neighbors who I still need to meet. I can hopefully offer a greeting or funny quip that will make them glad they went out for an evening stroll.

What are you going to do? What has been working for you?  Ideas welcome!