It is likely that every one of us has, at some point, experienced the sense of isolation which the pandemic has brought with it. By their very nature, the restictions imposed in response to the virus make us take a step back from those around us.
We have all become disengaged to a degree, but the subjective experience of this is different for each of us. For many of us, this stepping back is manageable and will be mitigated by having others around us with whom we can engage and who we know love and care for us.
But that is not the case for everyone. For large numbers of people, these have been interminable months of social and emotional isolation. And that can be a very hard thing to deal with. Man is a social animal, after all.
Among us, there are many who may be generally isolated in some respect even at the best of times – the elderly, the widowed, those with mental health issues, for example – but who are usually able to manage this; but these are not ordinary times and the additional strain of the pandemic can make this particularly difficult for them, as it is for all of us.
Perhaps the great lesson of this pandemic is that even while the virus separates us, it also provides a great reminder of our need to come together in whatever way we are able to achieve this. But to do this authentically, we need to reach outside of ourselves. We need to see beyond ‘me’ and think about ‘us’.
This reaching out of ourselves does not need to be elaborate – it can be as simple as saying ‘good morning’ to people we pass in the street; in the age of the mask, facial expressions are more hidden, so that words take on a new importance. Or it might take the form of knocking on the door of an elderly neighbour simply to say hello and check they are managing alright, or to ask if they need anything from the shop. It might mean making a phone call to that sibling, relative or friend we haven’t been speaking to for a while, re-establishing contact and good relations with them.
The opportunities are endless – we just need to think about them and then do something.
If we learn nothing else in this pandemic, let us learn one simple thing – people matter.