The Coronavirus episode has left many yearning for social interaction. Social distancing was meant to create physical separation, and it seems to be working, at least in the state of Washington.
But it has also bred social isolation. Neighbors don’t chat. The impromptu conversations on Sunset Avenue are over. No more small talk in the grocery store. As people stay away from each other, even in-house gatherings of friends and family have stopped.
Many have responded to social isolation through expressions of social solidarity. Individuals are volunteering for food banks and helping their elderly neighbors with errands. We know several families who regularly “eat out,” just to support local restaurants. Many residents have place stuffed bears in their windows to entertain children out on walks.
Several countries have created new rituals to celebrate social solidarity and express appreciation for first responders and front-line workers in essential services like hospitals, grocery stores, and restaurants. Italians gather in their balconies to sing, and Spaniards to clap. On April 5, hundreds of millions of Indians lighted candles at 9 p.m. In the UK, when the government appealed for volunteers to help the National Health Service, 750,000 signed up — three times the number government wanted.
Can we create a similar ritual in Edmonds? How about every evening, at 7 p.m., we all gather near our windows and front doors (at least 6 feet apart) to clap for five minutes, play a musical instrument, sing, or just wave at our neighbors. This daily ritual will renew our social solidarity. It will allow us to say thanks to all the essential workers and volunteers who are doing risky jobs to help all of us get through this period of confinement.
Nives Dolsak and Aseem Prakash