Being an introvert has instilled a natural tendency to self-isolate and social distance myself from others.
In fact, I have said most of my life I prefer the company of animals — any animal, cat, dog, bird, possum — to that of most people.
A statement my uncle often disagrees with.
“We need people,” he will say.
“I don’t like people though,” is my usual response.
“Don’t be that way, baby,” he will reprimand me gently. “Animals are wonderful. They love us and we love them. But we need people too. We do.”
This may be the only topic I have ever disagreed with my sweet uncle about, but it is one that has stood out in my mind over the last few weeks.
Some folks are saying this pandemic is going to change us and how we do things forever. And maybe it will.
I’ve started noticing some changes occurring already.
Technology, which has done a fine job of distancing us over the last decade — giving us reasons to be divided and argue and disconnected from the world and those around us — has been able to bring us closer together.
There have been people singing hymns as they played the piano via live videos.
Pastors are reaching their members and the unchurched via social media.
Stories of hope and community — real community — and of people coming together are being shared and created.
This is how we need to do social media — to come together rather than divide.
And friends we’ve known and had forever are reconnecting in the most loving of ways.
Friends we hadn’t chatted with in years were sharing updates with one another, and some that normally were not very open with expressions of affection were saying “I love you” a little more freely.
We need that right now.
We need to tell people we love them.
We need to hear from others they love us.
It was a glimmer of the silver lining in this whole mess.
Then one day, in the midst of it all, my husband and I had to go out to finish our taxes.
I had dreaded it and tried to do everything online, but a technology glitch required us to return not once but twice.
Since we were out, I decided to run in a store to get cat food, as it wasn’t available where I normally shop, and was backordered for home delivery. While in there, I decided I would grab a few more things we needed since we are introverting even more than normal.
To be honest, I was worried. Would it be apocalyptic? How were people acting out in public?
What I found was people being kind and courteous, being mindful of others in the aisles to keep their distance.
We’d smile at one another as we’d allow people to pass, rather than trying to all crowd between the Tide and the Downy. It was a sense of calmness and respect more than anything. Much different than it normally was.
As I headed towards the front of the store to check out, an elderly gentleman approached me and asked if I knew where to find the lightbulbs.
Years of working in retail made me take him to them, instead of pointing him off in the general direction of some far corner.
While we walked, he thanked me for my help and told me how he worked in a big box store and usually his schedule didn’t permit him to shop. He was one of those essential workers keeping all of us in our supplies during this crisis, and just grabbing something he knew they were out of before he went in to his shift.
We stopped for a few minutes, at our required six feet apart, and chatted, with him holding up most of the conversation.
He paused briefly before saying how his wife had passed away in January, before all of our lives changed so drastically and almost instantly. “I sure miss the conversation,” he said. “Being able to just talk to someone.”
I think that’s what we’re missing the most and have been for a while.
It’s what we’re returning to in our own self-isolated ways.
The real conversations.
About the things that matter.
Not likes. Not shares. Not follows, or any of the stuff that does not really make a hill of beans at the end of the day.
It’s about the connections and how we empathize and carry one another during trials like this that show our love for one another, for our fellow man.
We will get through this.
And we will undoubtedly come out different than we were when this started, but maybe the most important change will be we have a little more love in our hearts once we do.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.