Community. Beyond being a cult classic NBC sitcom, it’s also a key institution to ancient and modern societies alike.
At the onset of the pandemic, a lot of us mourned the communities that were so integral to our daily lives. Many folx took for granted the budding entrepreneur grinding every day at your local coffee shop, the retired woman who bags your groceries and asks about how your son is enjoying little league, the place of worship you’ve belonged to since you were a child, or your family and friends you spend time with every day.
But when coronavirus emerged people had to take stock of their communities and innovate new ways to hold space with one another. Previously independent people had to depend on relatives, neighbors, and perfect strangers deliver groceries and look in on our older loved ones.
Religious and academic institutions scrambled to transfer services and classes to the virtual realm. Physicians did their best to see patients via telemedicine. Employers who always frowned upon the “work from home” model and said it couldn’t be done were suddenly very accommodating. Weddings, funerals, graduations, and births were all brought to us courtesy of Zoom.
Now, as more and more people join the ranks of the vaccinated and make a mad dash for “normal” many older adults, people with disabilities, the terminally ill or medically fragile, and family caregivers worry…
What about us?
There is a possibility that some entities will maintain online versions of programs and virtual meet-ups, but it is also possible that groups, businesses, and organizations will begin to find these additional offerings to be inconvenient or, even if they want to continue offering these digital options, there may be less capacity or fewer resources available to do so.
But as the world returns to “normal” where does that leave those of us who already lead a life of social isolation, limited mobility, and perpetual FOMO? Will we drift back into obscurity or will society at large recognize us as an integral part of our communities with something of value to add?
I suppose only time will tell if any of these pandemic-era creations are here to last or will merely come and go as majority use necessitates. But I encourage those of you in positions of power or with any amount of decision-making power not to forget about the members of your community for whom access to your gatherings, experiences, and resources had previously been limited.
Virtual communities have offered a lifeline to many people who were previously isolated and will return to isolation if these communities are not prioritized, funded, invested in, and sustained by people who care about creating equity, affordability, and access for all.
[Song of the Post: “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds]