Many of us are starting to get a little punchy from being sequestered at home for a couple of months. Most of us haven't had this much time off since we were in school. And we've never had this much 'alone time' and that leads to loneliness, boredom, and sometimes, despair.
Most of us are feeling it, whether we are working from home, or whether we are part of the over 30 million people who've been abruptly separated from their work by the coronavirus and subsequent, local, state, and federal government actions to combat it.
It's pretty frightening.
There is a germ out there that, in the right circumstances, can make you very ill, or worse. We don't know exactly how or where we can get it, and the best experts are urging us to stay away from one another.
This problem is unprecedented in any of our lifetimes and there's no good estimate as to when it might be 'over.'
And if it seems like it's 'over' when will it come 'back?'
And whether it ever comes back, will our lives ever be the same as they were.
If you weren't already anxious about this, I apologize for laying it out so starkly. However, the realization of these realities, whether conscious or unconscious, is what's driving a sort of universal angst that is growing and changing the longer this weirdness continues.
Underlying all this is the relatively un-discussed part of this that is the most serious. At this writing, over 60,000 Americans have died of this virus.
At times like this - he says as though there have been times like this before - people need other people. The vexing thing is that we literally shouldn't be together. They need family, friends, work colleagues, classmates, and anyone else who can validate their feelings and help them feel like at least their misery is shared.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were blessed to be involved in a flash birthday car parade for a middle school kid in our town. It seemed the boy was not going to have much of a birthday, because no one could come to visit and celebrate with him.
A Facebook post on a local page, with the reason, time, and meeting place for the parade was sent and in less than a half-hour, the event went from zero to over 70 cars and a police escort passing the excited child's house, honking their horns and waving.
The thing that won't surprise you is this: that boy is not alone. Many are missing big birthdays or at least big celebrations. My family has two milestone birthdays approaching in the next two months. Neither will be celebrated as had been previously imagined.
But beyond birthdays, the feelings of isolation and loneliness and worry and fear are all around.
So how can we help?
The blessings of social media and video conference technology make it possible for us to be together to commiserate, catch up, laugh, cry, scream, complain, sing, play music, encourage, laugh, pray, laugh some more, and, at least for a little while, feel better.
Some thoughts for doing this:
Scan your Facebook friends, Twitter and Instagram followers, and LinkedIn contacts. Find 2-4 people you haven't heard from in a while. Then write a message on their wall, send an instant message, tweet at them, or send them a message on LinkedIn. It makes no difference if you have anything substantive to say. Just say you're thinking about them and you hope they and their loved ones are healthy and safe.
Set up a Facebook Messenger group of friends to share jokes, memes, trash talk, encouragement, reassurance, and empathy.
Create a virtual happy hour and invite people to it. Facebook Messenger is good for this as there is no time limit to how long you can hang out.
Call or text someone you know who may not be active on social media, to give encouragement or something to smile about.
If you know anyone who is grieving, especially those who have lost loved ones during this time when there are no wakes or funerals, whether from COVID-19 or something else, reach out. Tell them you're praying for them (then actually pray for them). Depending on their circumstances they may be lonelier than most. And sad too.
These are just a few ideas. You can think of better ones, I'm sure. The key is to do them. The people you reach out to will like hearing from you (hint, not the time to collect any debts from them...) You will feel good too.
Don't overthink or overcomplicate this. Just a shout out will do. If you have a video chat or conference call and nobody comes, try again at another time.
We need each other now as much as at any time I can remember. And since, like the Snickers commercials not too long ago, we're not going anywhere for a while. Why not use a few minutes of this newfound time to make somebody's day a little better.
God bless you. Thanks for reading.
Jim Donaher is a writer, blogger, and author of the soon to be published, "Call Him, He's Home: Learning Prayer to Start and Grow Your Relationship with God" Click the title to read an excerpt.