Back to Basics: Supporting, Connecting, and Celebrating
By ISJL Education Fellow Rena Lubin
We may be socially distancing, but there are things we can do, even in isolation, to get back to basics. In earlier months, we grew accustomed and took for granted the ease of proximity, shorthand and unthinking conversations, and unspoken thanks. During this time apart, we can work to find ways in which we can, instead, feel more connected to each other than ever before.
Supporting those we love and miss
Sadly, we cannot give those we love and miss a hug right now. We cannot hold their hand, give them a high five, a fist bump, or practice another form of physical endearment. What we can do, however, is refocus our time and energy on letting our loved ones know how we feel, offering support from afar, and making caring gestures. There are many ways to do this that we may have forgotten about, when showing others how we felt in-person became such secondhand nature.
A great way to renew a practice of reaching out to others is to grab any old piece of paper and a writing utensil! Make your own “Thinking of You” or “Just Because” card from scratch, writing to a grandparent or great-grandparent who lives far away, a classmate who lives in a different neighborhood than you, or a favorite teacher a student was accustomed to seeing every day. When the days are spent at home, getting snail-mail can be the best part! Who wouldn’t enjoy receiving a homemade card? How thoughtful!
Connecting with friends in different places
Who remembers pen pals? Practice the art of letter-writing, not only to relatives and acquaintances, but to those you have yet to know! Many resources are available today to help you get connected to other people in your state, your country, and the whole world! This is an opportunity to catch up with friends in distant, faraway places, or even someone you met at camp years ago. Additionally, you can get a pen pal from Israel, write to a teacher and student through a network of schools, or contact your local senior center or nursing home to see if they have a system in place for exchanging letters.
Now more than ever, it is important that we commit ourselves to getting, staying, and feeling connected! Writing letters to those near and far instill many values and hone countless skills: from patience, thoughtfulness, and perspective, to communication, geography, and socialization. With many places having already instituted or now extending their shelter-in-place orders, lots of folks have been and will continue to feel and be by themselves for the foreseeable future. People need people, and receiving a personalized letter from someone who took the time not only to write and send it, but to get to know you in the process, will make anyone’s day a brighter one!
Celebrating members of the community
Along this line of thinking, it is important during this time to remember to thank members of our community; those who did so much before this pandemic arose, those who work to maintain some sense of normalcy and safety, even those who may be stuck in the house with us, working hard to keep things stocked and afloat.
Much like the recommendation above, have students write a “Thank You” card to their rabbi, their teachers, or their parents. Maybe write a poem of thanks and send it to those important to you. Draw a picture illustrating a time in which this person did something special that you are thankful for. Send a text or email expressing gratitude, even if it includes the shorthand “thx.”
With everything going on in the world, it feels good to know that the work people are doing is being noticed, that a service and commitment has meaning to at least someone out there, and that at the end of the day, even with weight on our own shoulders, we can still say: thank you.