D. Louise Brown

Louise Brown

Well, we have a new challenge, don’t we?

As a result of a global pandemic, people are coming together, ironically to confront a virus that keeps us apart. Our new norm of social distancing keeps our physical selves apart to prevent the contagion from spreading. But social distancing has opened our eyes to how much we don’t like being apart. Our desire to be united drives us to figure out how to show support and encouragement to each other — from a distance.

My granddaughter who lives in Colorado had a birthday last week. Imagine turning 12 years old during a global pandemic. The family had a party,

but the giggly gaggle of girls that usually accompanies such a milestone wasn’t there. Then Sunday afternoon, her mom got a phone call to bring her daughter out on the porch. Along the street came a long procession of vehicles filled with riders waving posters and honking horns and singing out Happy Birthday to her while she stood on the porch and waved, grinning — loved.

That’s what reaching outside our imposed spheres to lift each other looks like.

I visited my elderly mother on the day her assisted living facility was shut down to visitors, squeaking through the front door just hours before it was officially closed. Knowing it would be the last time she saw one of her children in person for perhaps a long time, I stayed until I had to leave. But — the facility director called me days later with a plan. I went back to the facility, per her directions, and stood outside the front window. Staff inside brought Mom to the window, handed her a cellphone, and she and I had a face-to-face chat. Staring at her sweet face through the safe window, I was overcome by the kindness of that manager’s effort.

That’s what reaching outside our imposed sphere to lift each other looks like.

It’s an ironclad fact that one of the most effective ways to pull ourselves out of despair is to look beyond our world into others’ and find a way to lift them. It’s certainly true for me. The days I spend too much time wallowing in news and social media leave me discouraged, even afraid. The antidote is to figure out how to improve the welfare of someone else. It turns something as simple as a dozen homegrown eggs left on my porch into a day of happiness — not just because I needed the eggs, but because I’m aware I’m loved.

When we lift each other, we offer today’s most sought after gift of all — hope. Hope is what we need, and hope is what we can give each other. We find it in acts of service. We find it in words of encouragement. We find it on our knees.

A month ago I wrote here about the need to be more civil to each other. Referring to the sudden unity the 9/11 attacks generated, I wrote, “What we need is a common enemy.” Well, we got it. And it has motivated us to unite in ways we’re still imagining.

Unity in our present circumstances looks different. It’s replacing social media time with calling time — picking up the phone to scroll and instead dialing someone who needs to talk.

It’s taking a prized package of toilet paper to a neighbor who has none.

It’s leaving a note of encouragement on a porch step.

It’s repeating the growing wave of countless acts of service we read and hear about every day pouring out against the tide of despair.

It’s thinking to thank — in some safe way — those on the front lines of this battle, from medical personnel to first responders, from farmers to ranchers, from truck drivers to utility workers, from manufacturers to retailers, from national administrators to home-schooling mommas, and more. Every one of them is working with a new vision and purpose. Pray for them and support them in any way imaginable.

We are in this together. Thrown into this dilemma, we have the common goal to survive it. The nature of our threat forces us to stay apart physically, but we can overcome it by pulling together mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

We will make it through this. Let’s bring someone with us.

D. Louise Brown lives in Layton. She writes a biweekly column for the Standard-Examiner.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!