How to stay safe and stay connected with your community.
Isolation, loneliness, and the pandemic can often go hand in hand. Hopefully, as we continue to learn how to avoid catching the coronavirus and as the vaccine becomes more available, we will have more “social courage” to go out to others in a smart way with the intention of keeping ourselves connected and healing the wounds caused by distancing.
Choosing to be socially courageous may be something as simple as smiling at another person on the street (even with a mask on, a true smile is reflected in your whole face), but the collective fruit of these small opportunities can help foster a less individualistic and more communal culture.
1Greet others with cheer
A simple way to connect with the people around us is through a greeting. We can say hello anytime, anywhere. Behind a mask or at a distance, there’s no excuse for not offering a gesture of acknowledgement through a gesture of the head, raising a hand or simply making eye contact.
Sometimes we just don’t feel like it. We’re not in the right frame of mind, we feel tired, it seems awkward or we simply prefer to keep focusing on our own stuff. We may even fear that interacting with the other person will take up part of our precious time. In those moments it takes a voluntary act of courage to greet others.
Chances are, most of our daily encounters are fleeting. Therefore, it’s important to take advantage of those moments to “touch” others in a positive way and greet with joy the people we see every day. A simple greeting or smile creates an instant connection because it shows that we recognize the other person’s presence and value.
2Pray for others
Sometimes we don’t know how we can connect with others, especially if they’re far away, or are going through a hard time and we can’t find the right words. It’s possible that we don’t fully understand what someone is going through, but by praying for them we learn to put ourselves in their shoes, feel empathy and be more connected.
It often takes courage to decide to make an act of trust in which God hears us, to pray for others, and also to be able to tell the other person that we’re lifting them up in that special way. No one should take issue with us praying for them, although some might (in which case there’s that much more reason to pray for them). In any case, we need to overcome our fear of exposing our ideals or beliefs.
Prayer connects us in a very special way to others, even if we’re very different from each other. Even if they’re not very religious, people can connect to others in a deeper way, wishing them from the heart the best for their life and placing them in God’s hands. Knowing that someone is praying for you can give you strength to persevere in faith and nurture hope.
3Have a conversation with a stranger
A brief conversation with someone we don’t know can change our daily lives—and someone else’s. It doesn’t matter if you’re not an extrovert; you don’t have to say much. Being nice to people you don’t know is enough. Paying attention to others shows that we recognize that every person has human dignity, and every person matters, whether they are a friend or someone who is cleaning the aisle or selling coffee.
It often takes courage to talk to another person, overcoming the barrier of fear of what they will think if we don’t know each other. We also have to deal with anxiety or nervousness when interacting with others while protecting ourselves for the risk of contagion with the virus. The result can be a mixture of embarrassment and fear of annoying others.
We can try to give a compliment if we see something beautiful or good in a person. With a little attention we can find many details to praise. When we practice kindness with strangers we’ll discover many positive things, and this can be an opportunity to not only get to know a wonderful person, but also to take an action to make someone feel less alone.
4Take the initiative to make plans
Often others want to connect with us, but if we don’t take action it’s possible it may never happen. Being the first to take action to strengthen a friendship is a way to show and spread social courage. Don’t wait to be invited.
Put your prejudices aside. There are definitely people you know who need an opportunity to share, be heard with love, and receive help and encouragement, especially if they’re experiencing a difficult situation because of the pandemic. Take the first step by inviting someone for a walk or coffee.
It’s important to connect with people who’ve always been in our life. It can be tempting to focus on the shortcomings of friends or family and lose motivation. What’s certain is that if they’re people who have been in our life for a long time, it is likely for a good reason.
5Seek ways to serve
A great way to connect to others and be able to grow along with them is when we practice love in action. Serving other people is one of the best ways to not feel lonely and to make lifelong friends, to practice gifts to bring out the best in us and feel that we’re making a difference.
Courage is needed in those moments when we think we can’t do something because our life is too busy and we don’t have enough time. The same applies when we limit ourselves by thinking we’re incapable of doing something we may not even have tried yet. Alternatively, we may simply prefer to settle into something comfortable where we can’t do any harm, while missing many opportunities to do good.
You can join an organization dedicated to helping as a volunteer, perhaps bringing food to the elderly or sewing blankets for children in a hospital. The options are endless, but we can also discover many ways to help through small, everyday things, asking someone how they’re doing or making a phone call on the way to work.