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A Pandemic and the Value of Connection

By Gina Joseph

About three weeks ago, life was going along as life does: work, swim lessons, birthday parties, buying bathing suits for our upcoming—and long-awaited—family vacation to Florida. And then, the coronavirus came charging in like a speeding train out of nowhere. One minute we were vaguely aware of a virus overseas, the next it was here in the U.S., and life as we knew it just sort of—stopped. Social distancing, schools closed, birthdays and swim lessons and Florida trips all cancelled.

Like probably anyone reading this right now, I’m on edge, anxious and uncertain about what the future holds for our health and our economy. But at the same time, I have been incredibly moved by how much we, as a society, have come together, even as we are physically apart.

Social media, a regular landmine for moms everywhere who dare reach out for advice, has become a place where we can share ideas for kids out of school and the parents stuck at home, struggling to keep their little ones entertained. People are passing around creative lesson plans—or they are commiserating on their lack of lesson plans altogether, embracing the chaos and their messy living rooms. Who’s around to see it anyway?

Meanwhile, entertainers started offering free online concert sessions. Celebrities are live-streaming themselves reading children’s books for charity on Instagram. Zoos, devoid of visitors, are sharing up-close and personal Facebook Live events showing hippos, penguins, and cheetahs—sights that you sometimes miss when you have to fight your way through the crowds.

As people began working from home, we suddenly became more understanding of a dog barking or the whine of a needy kid during conference calls. We came out from behind the computer and turned on our cameras and we collectively realized that while working at home with children is really, really hard, it also proves that we can do it, with a little forgiveness and empathy.

Being relatively new to my neighborhood, I was just starting to meet some of the moms nearby, hoping to set up some playdates or grab a drink sometime soon. That has all been put on hold, which is disappointing because, as we all know, making mom friends with preschool children is not easy. Yet, a group of my old friends who normally just text regularly decided to try out an app that lets you record video chats in private groups. It’s been so nice to actually hear and see the faces of my friends back in our old city. In a time when phone calls are rare, I love being able to reconnect outside of a text box.

And speaking of phone calls, I had a long phone chat with one of my best friends the other night. She ironically only lives a few miles away, but we are being diligent about social distancing, so we’ve been texting back and forth when we can. But this time I decided to pick up the phone and just call. Remember when we used to do that? It’s been decades. I learned she was having a hard day after having to lay off most of the staff at the restaurant she manages. But we were able to laugh, and talk about what a complete lunatic our president is, and plan a FaceTime date to talk and drink a glass of wine in honor of her upcoming birthday.

This pandemic sucks. It’s scary. But it’s also a testament to the fact that we haven’t forgotten how to reach out, how to enjoy the simple things in life, how to connect with our families and appreciate what we do have. Even when things get back to normal someday, and they will, I hope we can continue these connections, and remember to have compassion—both to ourselves, as mothers trying their very best, and to the friends, families, and strangers who are giving it their all too.

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