It’s difficult to find a human on this planet that hasn’t been affected by COVID in some way. Maybe that hermit on his private Italian island? Maybe some reclusive Antarctic researcher? In one manner or another, though, every life has been altered, whether in regards to health, finances, plans, employment, losing a loved one, or all of the above.
As a society, we need more. More masks, yes. More ventilators. More toilet paper (or more people who don’t hoard). More COVID-19 test kids, especially here in the United States. More adherence to social distancing guidelines. More federal assistance.
More hugs, but that won’t be happening anytime soon.
Most of all, though, we need more ears.
Right now, everyone has a story of how their life has changed. Some have seen their income completely dry up. Some are battling COVID in isolation or in an overcrowded hospital. Some are in danger of losing their businesses, their homes. Some are separated from their loved ones by miles and travel restrictions. Some are trying to work from home but can’t clone themselves and watch their suddenly out-of-school kids as well. Some are about to lose a parent and can’t even plan a funeral because of current regulations. Some have to celebrate their birthdays alone with just themselves and Marco Polo. I, or someone I know well, fall into each of these categories.
With so many voices sharing these legitimate, desperate stories of loss, tragedy, or worry, it seems there aren’t enough ears to go around, and not enough thumbs reaching out and messaging words of hope and love.
I am guilty. I’ve been a little too quick to talk about all that’s gone wrong for me at the hands of this capricious coronavirus, and a little too slow to check in with those who need the two ears I have to offer.
In these times of physical distancing, it’s hard not to feel emotionally distanced, as well.
My heart is warmed by stories from across the globe of individuals, companies, families and organizations that are doing everything technologically possible to stay connected emotionally, relationally, socially.
It’s not enough to read these touching tales on social media and smile while we simultaneously isolate ourselves and binge watch another show. Positive posturing in your social media posts doesn’t count as interpersonal communication. Neither does leaving a sympathetic yet generic comment on someone else’s post.
What we need now, more than anything, is the knowledge that those in our life care. Are there to listen. To love. To understand. Perhaps you know a lonely person who is struggling to make ends meet financially, emotionally, or any other word with the suffix -ally. Perhaps you are that person.
Pick up your phone. Turn off Netflix. Give your thumbs a much-needed workout. Reach out. Say hey. Check in. Truly listen. You have so many apps at your disposal. FaceTime. Skype. Messenger. WhatsApp. Instagram. Good ol’ texting or phone calling. Even banners from your balcony.
Make the effort. I challenge you, and challenge myself, to contact five people today that you haven’t spoken with in awhile. We need each other. We are alone together, never simply alone.
Unprecedented times like these not only show us who our true friends are, but challenge us to be a little less self-absorbed, a little more apt to be the first one to reach out, a little more forgetful of our own needs and problems as we remember to do everything we can to be there for those who need us most.
To be honest, I’ve been discouraged these last few weeks. Self-reflective. Down. I have already spent six out of the last nine months trapped in bed, recovering from falling 80 feet and a subsequent spinal fusion surgery. My life had just started to get back on track, and now I find myself stuck indoors in a familiar place. As someone who needs, relies on, and craves social interaction, my soul is as empty as my bank account threatens to be. I’ve been tempted to shut down, and I already have, for short periods of time.
See? I can’t even make it through one blog post without talking about my own struggles.
From today on, though, I choose to offer my ears. My thumbs. My heart. I choose to remember that I am far from the only one navigating these uncertain, uncharted waters, and that I have much to be thankful for, many to be thankful for.
From today on, I choose to stop thinking as much about how I’m going to get through, and start thinking more about how I can help others get through.
If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll join me.
This piece was originally published on Medium.