Distancing for now, but still connected

Published 8:23 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2020

short rows header I’m forcing myself not to listen to every bit of bad news concerning the spread of COVID-19. To avoid the temptation, I go to my shop. Making sawdust has always been therapeutic. Now, it’s downright diverting. Just turn on a saw and tune out everything else.


But listening to the coverage of the coronavirus crisis can at times be helpful. Last Friday, for example, I heard one of the simplest — and most important — comments so far about dealing with our stay-at-home society.

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A cable network reporter was interviewing a Jewish rabbi (whose name I neglected to write down and promptly forgot.) He was explaining how he is keeping in touch with his synagogue’s congregation through Skype and other electronic means. He is holding worship services for all who want to join in, as are some of our local churches as well.

This thoughtful and caring man then said he believes we are using the wrong terminology to describe the need to stay apart from other people.

Instead of “social distancing,” he said, we should practice “physical distance and social connection.” We may not be able to touch one another, to shake hands or, heaven forbid, hug, but we can stay in touch. With that, he summarized the greatest need we have right now — to remain a community.

Electronics make it possible to do so. There’s Skype, of course, as well as email, texting and an old-fashioned phone call. It’s as simple as picking up the phone. Oh, that’s right. We stopped “picking up” phones a long time ago. Now we take them out of purse or pocket. Nevertheless, we still have them.

We always try to justify not staying in touch with family and friends because we’re just too busy. Well, for many of us, that is clearly not the case right now. Call a relative or friend you haven’t spoken with recently. Inquire how they’re doing during this challenging time. Is there anything you can do to help them? Or, just chat about nothing in particular. That call will be more important than you can possibly imagine.

Rest assured the phone call will do you at least as much good as it does them.

Right you are, rabbi.


COVID-19 bits’n pieces

• Our local restaurants have done everything in their power to stay in business. They are now ordered closed except for take out, and some are delivering to homes.

If you order take-out, and I hope you will do so often, leave a generous tip. The few servers who are able to find employment may not be serving you at a table, but they are working, and they depend heavily on tips.  We can help, at least a little, by remembering them when we pay for takeout orders.

• Supermarkets had already begun offering bagged groceries delivered to the parking lot well before the coronavirus panic. Now, you can also have them delivered to your home. This is a case of what goes around, comes around. Little’s Supermarket, that venerable institution that stood on West Main Street for generations, offered home delivery a half century ago. As a matter of fact, most mom-pop groceries of our youth did, as did drugstores.

There’s nothing like a society lockdown to improve customer service, it seems.

• What on earth is prompting the surge in gun sales in Virginia? Are people arming themselves to protect the toilet paper they’re hoarding against the day when they think society will break down completely and the masses start roaming the streets?

Oh, well. You can’t expect everyone to act rationally during a crisis. I’m just happy most people appear to be doing so.