Overnight, the world changed. I packed up my belongings from work, took everything home, and since Monday I haven’t been to the office, gym, friends’ homes, coffee shops, restaurants, or church. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go to any of these places again.
College students returning home from school are experiencing the honeymoon stage of “coronacation.” Many of us are staying up later, wearing pajamas all day, and drinking a bit more than usual. It’s tempting to see this as a time to let up on routines and indulge in Netflix.
I’ve taken a different route. I don’t want to survive the pandemic. I want to do everything I can to thrive in it. This means added routine and doing what I can to build structure in my life. I get up early every morning, exercise (youtube yoga videos are great if you’ll be sitting at a home desk all day), pray, shower, and get dressed. I’ve been going through my house, cleaning, and organizing each room. Of course, time to slow down and process this odd time is important as well.
I believe that if I do everything I can to be happy, healthy, and strong now, then I will be better able to help others when life becomes more stressful, chaotic, and challenging later. Outside of working hours, I’m focusing on promoting what I think world needs right now: service, creativity, and community. I’ll share here some of what I’ve been doing during week one of social distancing to promote these. I hope you’ll join me in using this time not only to survive, but to thrive.
Community needs are changing. I’m doing a couple of things, both to respond to needs now and to respond to coming needs.
One thing I’m currently doing is working with my church’s young adult group to provide a grocery delivery option for parishioners who may be homebound for whatever reason. We’ve reached out to the parish, asking anyone who cannot go to the grocery store to reach out to me directly. I’ll connect the individual with one of our young adult volunteers, and we’ll do grocery runs. Ideally, I’d like to have at least two grocery deliveries per volunteer, so that, in addition to providing the service, we can cut down on the number of people going to stores. This is a helpful service, and it helps us young adults to feel active, empowered, and connected to our parishes during this time.
In addition, I‘ve put additional charitable giving into my monthly budget. Everyone who is still making money should do this, even if it’s a small amount. Unemployment will rise. People will need to feed themselves and their families. If you start setting aside a little money now, you’ll be able to help more in the future.
I also want to create beautiful things that last, especially while many of us have more at-home time. One thing I’m doing is writing a collective story with my creative writing workshop. The way it works is that, when people sign up to participate, they have to add one sentence to the story in the shared googledoc. (I started us off with: “She didn’t want a toilet paper alternative.”) After people have signed up, the story is “checked out” to an assigned person. That person has to edit the story and add at least 500 words to the end of it. After 48 hours, they have to reach out to the next person on the list, and that person have 48 hours to do their writing.
The story was just “checked out” to the second writer, and it’s already getting really interesting. I’m excited to have this as something we’ve done together that will last beyond this time. I highly recommend getting a group of friends together to do something similar.
Obviously, the above activities help foster community. I’ve also found it helpful to connect with friends as much as possible. I’ve had daily phone calls, Skype happy hours, and ongoing messaging groups. As much as technology can bring anxiety and insecurity, we should all be thankful to live in such a digitally connected age. My roommates and I have had more meals together, have shared home office space, and have talked through how we’re feeling about changes and cut-backs at work.
Is it possible to practice social distancing and be more connected? Can we come out on the other side of this more healthy, happy, and socially-minded? I think we can. In the game of me vs. pandemic, I intend to win.
More of my thoughts on COVID-19:
Chris Damian is a writer, speaker, attorney, and business professional living in the Twin Cities. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and his J.D. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas. He is the author of “I Desired You: Intellectual Journals on Faith and (Homo)sexuality” (volumes I and II). He is also the co-founder of YArespond, a group of Catholic young adults seeking informed and holistic responses to the clergy abuse crisis. In his free time, he enjoys hosting dinner parties and creative writing workshops.