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How Can We Be Together While Distancing Physically?

March 24th, 2020

How are COVID-19 restrictions affecting you?

One of my friends remarked on LinkedIn that she is really in need of a visit—even through the screen door. Though she is working from home and has exhausted a list of household to-dos (even trimming her bushes), she is feeling isolated and lonely. I urged her to FaceTime me for a chat—the safest way to be present to someone in this frightening time.

Seeing her post, however, fanned the fires of my desire to ask, “How do we create or maintain a community during this time of physical distancing?”

At the bottom of the Mission and Values page of UCOM’s website, there is a video created from the song Ken Medema wrote and recorded for UCOM’s 25th anniversary—ten years ago. The message has resonated well until now. Listen to it and you’ll get the idea. Though the mission and values remain the same, during this distancing time we can’t sing about all the people gathered here (since our building is closed to the public), or all the “kids” here, or the “touching” to show our close relationships. Even the photo of clasped hands doesn’t set a good example for right now.

Given all that, how can we play out UCOM’s core value of community? Here are a few of the ways I am maintaining those warm bonds even though, for the good of all, we must keep some distance physically.

  1. I am utilizing social media for its originally intended purpose of keeping people connected. By being personal (but not intimate) I can interact with many of my friends, families, and colleagues several times a day without endangering my health or anyone else’s. Unlike my usual process, I don’t wait for a Facebook algorithm to bring comments to my wall. I can just go to the page of the person I want to check in on and see if they have an update on which I want to follow up. Then I can comment, or I can connect in some other way.
  2. Recently I saw a cartoon where a young person holding up a smartphone said with a puzzled expression, “Wow! Did you know you can call people on these too?” Texting is fine, but hearing a familiar voice right now might be just what the doctor ordered. This is especially true for grandma or mom and dad, but your friends might like to connect with you by phone as well.
  3. Video capabilities on most phones make it easy for you to give a short message to one or several people who may be missing that human contact. I plan to have some brief video updates or live-streaming Facebook to keep all of our supporters up to date on what some staff and volunteers are doing to make lives better for our neighbors in the midst of these rapidly changing days.
  4. The past few days I have utilized my ZOOM app to connect with 16 of my church colleagues in the area and with 1300 people today talking about where the church fits into this pandemic. Our staff, many of whom are working from home, sat down together for our weekly staff meeting on ZOOM last week. This is a good time to learn some new things. It is the next best feeling to being together in the same physical space.

These are just a few of the ways that I have chosen to stay connected to friends, extended family and neighbors. Distance does not have to mean isolation.

Serious question: how are you continuing to connect with people while practicing physical distancing? Your comments below may be just the advice someone needs. Maybe you have some less technical ways of connecting. I have a sense that I'm not the only one who would like to hear from you.

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