Two months ago, I could not have told you with any degree of confidence or specificity what the term “physical distancing” meant.

Now, we all live our lives trying to keep a careful six-foot radius between ourselves and those around us. We wear masks to cover our noses and mouths in public, wash our hands with diligence, and keep hand sanitizer handy. We do all of this to protect ourselves and others.

Simply going to the grocery store feels like a monumental and harrowing task. Actually finding toilet paper or paper towels in the grocery store is worthy of a small victory dance right there in the store aisle!

Everything from shopping, outdoor activities, and even Dodger baseball (say it ain’t so!), are on hiatus as we wait out this pandemic. The church that I serve as pastor has not met for any public gatherings in almost two months as we seek to care for the overall good of the community by quarantining safely at home.

I could not have imagined any of what has now become “daily life” just a couple of months ago, and yet, all of this (and so much more) has just become a part of our “new normal.” 

As we have faced this crisis together, there have been countless acts of kindness, neighborliness and selflessness by so many in our community, and around the world.

In my neighborhood, so many more people are out walking, waving at each other, smiling and even inspiring one another with sidewalk chalk quotes and artwork left for all to enjoy. We’ve started a “bear hunt,” with people placing teddy bears, and other stuffed animals, in their windows for children to “find” when they are out on needed walks with their parents.

Neighbors have reached out to elderly neighbors, delivering groceries and medications. It seems physical distancing rules have reminded us of how good it feels to belong to a community.

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon a Facebook Group called “The View from My Window,” where people simply share a picture of the view from their home. From such a simple idea has come a rather profound and beautiful global community.

People from countries around the world are posting the view from their home, along with where they are from and perhaps a little bit about their lives. In this time of quarantine and physical isolation, I’ve had the pleasure of “traveling” around the world, and have been offered a glimpse of people’s homes and lives.

From the fjords of Norway, to a small garden patio in India, to Caribbean villages, to farms in Kentucky, to back alleys with not much to look at, to nurses posting pictures of Times Square from a hotel in Manhattan where they have traveled to help treat COVID patients.

In the comments section of each of these photos, people from around the world share their greetings, words of support, and their location. It really is such a simple, but profound, idea.

In this midst of this time of isolation, divisions and tensions, people around the world are using this global health crisis and social media to reach out to one another, offering the gift of beauty, connection, and a sense of belonging to one another in our fragile human community.

Much of the talk these days is about “reopening” the country and returning to “normal.”

While we all want physical and economic health for our communities to be restored, I find myself wondering about what part of “normal’ we want to return to, and what part of our pre-COVID-19 lives might best be left behind us.

For the first time in most of our lives, we’ve had to hold “the common good” above individual needs and desires, and this has been challenging to be sure.

We’ve wrestled with deep anxieties, fears, and the impact of isolation on our physical, psychological and spiritual lives. And, tens of thousands of people have lost loved ones and have had to grieve those losses in isolation.

I hope that this time of “physical distancing” has given us some space to reconnect with our families, refocused our lives on our deepest values and commitments, and has enhanced our sense of what it means to live in community with one another.

Perhaps we’ve started walking more, greeting our neighbors more, looking out for those who are vulnerable more.

Perhaps we’ve come to appreciate our teachers, grocery store workers, and our health care workers more as they extend care and service to our communities.

I hope we will carry forward a sense of gratitude for the connections and interrelatedness that we share, both in our local communities, as well as global human family.

As we begin to emerge from this time of quarantine, may we always remember that we belong to one another.

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