“Instead of social distancing, how about physical distancing? Words matter.” It was a message that came across my Twitter feed from Brad Stulberg – a recent guest on The Good Life Podcast – and it hit me hard. He continued the tweet:
“Now, more than ever, we need to be socially CONNECTED. The only way we get through this—both biologically and psychologically—is together. Action. Attitude. Support. Kindness. It’s all contagious.”– Brad Stulberg
Aristotle famously wrote, “Man is by nature a social animal.” To be in relationship with others, to nurture our friendships, to care for our families, to contribute to society, to be a member of the community; all of these things strike to the core of our nature.
When we find ourselves in a crisis, our natural reaction is to fall back on these relationships, to come together as a family, a community and a nation.
So while I agree with the health experts, that we must maintain our 6 feet of physical distance when out in public, I also agree with my friend Brad Stulberg, that now more than ever we need to reduce the social distance between us.
As this crisis has unfolded, and hit my city of Seattle particularly hard, at least in the early stages, I keep coming back to three themes:
We will get through this. We will do it together. It will transform us.
We will get through this.
In any crisis, one of the most important messages a leader can provide is hope. Remind your family, friends, employees and neighborhoods that we will prevail. This pandemic will eventually be defeated, the economy will come back and the normal patterns of life will return. During times of fear and panic it is all the more critical for this message to get out, and for leaders to have confidence and conviction. Churchill was, perhaps, the master of delivering a message of hope with confidence. If you’re looking for inspiration, read his “Their Finest Hour” speech. (Also see: Seven Leadership Lessons from Winston Churchill).
We will do it together
To conquer this molecular menace, it will take the collective effort and teamwork of society. During the first phase of this crisis I found myself, perhaps naturally, looking inward and focusing on myself and my family – stocking up with food, protecting my family’s health and safety and worrying about cash flow. Yet after a few days I realized, we have a duty to look beyond ourselves and our immediate family during times of crisis. By asking ourselves, “what can we do to help others?” we take the first step toward mobilizing our collective effort to conquer this pandemic. Despite the order to keep our physical distance, there are steps we can take: reach out to an older adult who may be lonely, offer to go to the grocery store for someone who is more vulnerable, take the time to call and comfort a friend.
It will transform us
In his essay “Connect, Connect, Connect” published in the Wall Street Journal last week, David Byrne reflected on the Covid-19 crisis:
“Is there something we can learn from this, something that will allow us to better weather the next crisis, some different way of being that might make us stronger? Is this an opportunity to change our thinking, our behavior? Are we capable of doing that?”– David Byrne
The answer to this question is emphatically, “yes!” A crisis has a way of changing us. It reminds us of our utter dependence on each other to survive. Although no one of us can change society on our own, we can all make personal changes, so we come out of this experience transformed into a better version of our self.
Yes, we will continue to maintain our physical distance with others – it is a shared sacrifice that will lead to the greater good and it is a restriction on our freedom that will eventually lead to true freedom, but let us reduce the social and psychological distance between us and others. Let’s use this crisis to forge closer bonds with one another and become a healthier more compassionate society. Together we will prevail.
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