It’s Time to Get Creative: Building Solidarity & Community in the Time of Social Distancing

I hope you and your family are practicing what is quickly becoming the phrase of the age: “social distancing.”

I never, ever thought I would say this as a family historian, but right now, NOT being with your extended family is exactly what is needed. Staying home and keeping our distance is what we need. To do otherwise, especially with our elders, would be at best irresponsible, at worst, dangerous.

My great-grandmother was born in the middle of the flu epidemic of 1918. She was born at home because her family was staying at home. Her younger sister, my great-great-aunt Betts, who was born at the tail end of the epidemic, told me they all were. I can’t imagine those first few years of isolation for my great-great-grandmother, and the strength it must have taken to get through that time.

Thank goodness this pandemic is not like 1918, at least not in the sense that if we are staying home, we are locking out the rest of the entire world. We have incredible ways of keeping in touch with each other. Our family has been home for a week now, and just yesterday my kids and I had a video chat with my sister and niece, I talked to my mother on the phone, and my daughter Skyped with a new friend in England for over an hour. I kept in close contact with friends via text and Facebook messenger, and I interacted with many people all over the world on Twitter.

Solidarity is Rising

One thing that is amazing to me right now about this time that we are living through is the solidarity that is on the rise, all over the world. We are laughing at the same stupid memes about things like toilet paper. We are standing in our porches and having sing-alongs. We are chipping in to support small businesses from afar. We are sending each other necessities. We are attending our worship services from our living rooms. More and more people are agreeing to stay at home and keep their distances from one another because understanding is growing that if we don’t, the consequences will be even more dire than our already alarming global situation.

More and more, people are showing up for each other in innovative and creative ways. Zoos and museums are sharing virtual tours or going live. Educators are reading aloud children’s books on YouTube. Pastors and priests are creating online Bible camps. People are reconnecting through chat and telephone, and discovering that social media really isn’t all that bad after all. In fact, it might be one of our biggest blessings right now. The rector of our church took a Facebook fast for Lent but changed gears for the good of her congregation when the situation worsened and she knew she’d need it to communicate with us.

We are all building community and solidarity with one another little by little every time we connect with our families at home and everyone in the world outside through the use of technology.

Getting Creative

We just need a little creative imagination during this time. We can make the most of this time, and we can show our love for one another in new ways.

Now is the time to make a dent in your tall stack of unread books. Watch your favorite movies, or pick up a new show. It’s never been a better time to do some deep cleaning in your home, either. Rearrange the furniture or organize a cluttered closet. Utilize the library’s ebook system or buy a new book from a new author on Kindle. Call or email a long lost relative. Send a message to an old friend. Check-in on your elders by telephone. Donate to an animal shelter or homeless shelter through their Amazon wishlists. Donate money to a food pantry. Tithe to your church. Make sure the new parents in your community have enough diapers or formula. Maybe share any unopened packages of toilet paper you might have with your neighbors by throwing it to them over the fence?

There are a million and one ways to get creative now. We are about to find out just how meaningful human connection is even from a distance.

Community-Building and Friendship for Kids while “Social Distancing”

All in-person playdates should be canceled for now. As sad and distressing as that is, they simply should not happen.  Yes, kids need each other, but in different ways right now. For now, why not let your kids video chat with their friends on your phone. Have them draw each other pictures to text to each other or send one another emails. And they can enroll in an online class. There are classes happening at True North Homeschool Academy, where I teach, and also so many on Outschool. And I am offering my classes and lessons for kids starting this week, the week of March 16. I am happy to tailor-make a class for any group of kids or teens, even adults, or respond to any request to create a new kind of class. I am planning on creating classes on historical fiction, creative nonfiction, biography, memoir, family history, and more. I’d love for any of you, wherever you are, to join us. This is one way we can build community and friendship for our kids. Plus it’s a way to keep their smart brains engaged and moving in this time when lethargy and monotony could so easily take over.

Please reach out to me if you have any requests, comments, or questions. I am here for you. We are here for each other. As a planet, we are all now finally realizing just how interconnected we are. We are all in the same situation across the globe, and now is the time to be there for one another – from a safe distance. We got this, friends.

As Bishop Jennifer of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis read the other night on a Facebook live of Compline:

All shall be well and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” – Julian of Norwich

Take care friends. And be well.


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