In my last blog and newsletter, I introduced a topic that I plan to consider “out loud” for the next few weeks, the apparent decline of community and relationships in our world. I was really curious what my readers thought about the issue and invited your perspective. What I got back was really good! Your comments were honest, heartfelt and insightful. Your feedback was so helpful, I thought it would be good to share excerpts with everyone. Thank you to all who offered your insights! Keep ‘em coming!
Next week I will begin to address the “why” behind the phenomena but for today consider what others think about the statement, “I wonder if we’ve given up on each other?”
Ambivalent and stuck:
“I’m stuck between not wanting to go out in public, and missing that personal interaction. I’m not necessarily fearful of COVID-19 or human interaction. I have just gotten used to staying home, and not sure if I want to change that. I am stuck in a rut, and honestly, not sure I want to come out of it. I am about 50/50 on attending church in-person vs. online. I enjoy both, but again, there is something that gets lost when you try to worship online or listen to a message without having the benefit of others around you that are receiving the same message.”
Sad but hopeful:
“I’m struggling. This year has brought so many downs in my family, with friends, with co-workers and in so many places in our world. The only place I want to be is HOME. Home became our only safe place, our refuge and place of peace during the shutdown and I know that I never feel vulnerable there. Home is my sanctuary. The only feeling I have these days sometimes is sadness…but I do hope for more peace next year and for life to return to a little more gentleness. What we have been through will take years to mend itself, but we must persevere for this life is a gift and if we have to get there by one good deed at a time, then that’s what we have to do.”
“Your letter really hit a nerve. I have experienced the same lack of community, get-togethers, and lack of interest in what used to be fun, wonderful opportunities to get together with friends. Have we become lazy…comfortable to stay home? Has our self-imposed isolation become a habit in our routine? Have we become frightened of large/small gatherings? Has our access to social media fulfilled the gap that was once filled by relationships? Has our desire to reach-out to others diminished with our online contacts? We do not talk over the phone, instead we text. Does the cultural divide and harsh political rhetoric keep us isolated and afraid to join the fray? Do we live in fear of being physically attacked or ridiculed for our beliefs? We no longer debate…we argue our position. So, many changes in how we communicate with one another have destroyed civil discourse.”
A “social bug” working from home:
“On a personal level, I have continued to connect with family, friends and coworkers. I had never experienced “working from home” until now with the pandemic. The first 2 weeks felt weird, but by the 4th week, I said to myself “If I never step foot in an office again, I’m totally OK with that!” I noticed that I was totally OK with working remotely, even though I am a super social bug, but maybe I was so comfortable with the remote work arrangement because I was still connecting with a small group of people at church on a weekly basis, plus with being the “social bug” that I am, I never meet a stranger, therefore, I kept interacting with people all throughout, as much as possible.”
Concerned but intentional:
“I am concerned about many of the issues you noted this week. The statistics around depression, substance abuse, suicides substantiate what we see and hear and seem to be outcomes from isolation. I wonder if and how today’s culture, especially around politics and social issues plays a role – we seem to have lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable. If we disagree on something can we still be friends? Several friends and I, along with others that come and go, have been meeting Saturday mornings for breakfast for over 20 years. We’ve not missed a beat. I have to be intentional – willing to step out, willing to listen, willing to consider opinions different from mine, willing to keep a relationship despite disagreements.”
Aware but in full swing:
“I feel people are afraid to try to connect. Afraid to care, because it could be draining, they don’t see the reward in having community. For myself I am full swing back into small group, women’s Bible study, and I am out more than I have ever been.”
It’s such an effort:
“This subject hit home with me. I know I’ve pulled back. For me it might be a combination of Covid and physical deterioration due to muscular dystrophy. Either way, it’s easier to be at home and more physically comfortable. I do go out and do things, but it seems like such an effort. I have thought about this and it bothers me but not enough to change anything yet. I guess until I read your newsletter I thought it was just me.”
Friends have faded away:
“Oh, my, how you just spoke to me! I, also, am among the “shoulder-shrugging” when trying to discover the why’s and how’s of this change in my own life. Yes, COVID may have played a small part in my disconnection with community. However, I think it is a combination of COVID and widowhood. Both cause some degree of isolation. When one loses a spouse, it becomes very apparent that it is a couples’ world. The friends one had in their couples’ circles seem to quietly fade away, leaving the widow to find new community. This is not easy. Attending church by oneself is very lonely. Sure, there are some who awkwardly smile and maybe even say hello, but the old sense of community is no longer there. Therefore, it becomes easy and comfortable to watch services online. I have had conversations with myself regarding this, debating the merits (if any) of this practice.”
Still travelling together:
“My wife and I have been going to the same small group 17+ years. Over the years as a group we have changed but the core has remained the same. We have met almost 2-3 times a month for 17 years and during the pandemic although less often we met via zoom. We have been through cancer, stroke, and other health challenges. We have prayed together for one another and for many others around us. We have laughed and cried together and been present for one another in all of life. We have traveled this life together, we have felt God’s Grace and Mercy. We love one another, and in this season of life we feel a bond that we know will take us to the end of our individual journeys on earth.”
A social person who’s aware:
“I’m a social person. And once vaccinated and my family was vaccinated the fear of being infected and infecting them slowed down. I don’t know if that sounds selfish, but I feel much better if I get to have time in person with my family and friends. Some friends are kinda grouchy about connecting. As the one that generally asks who wants to get together, I know really well who will say yes, no, or ditch us at the last minute. The isolation gave permission to focus just on ourselves and lose the empathy for others. And the political climate encourages segregation into an echo chamber.”
Again, thank you to all who contributed to the conversation. I look forward to hearing more from you all as we continue to seriously consider the nature of community and relationships in today’s world.
As an educator, during the Pandemic, I watched students and parents pull away from the idea that they needed any help! Many students did not attend on-line classes that were made available. the result a year later is that we have many non-readers! Those that missed 1st -3rd are lost. The parents must not have found the value for community in learning, which is a research-based fact. Kids always learn better inside groups. I feel so badly for these young learners.
Thank you Dianne, I feel badly, as you do. It’s partly why I am focusing on this issue.