COVID-19 was a strange time. It was a unique moment in history where we bunkered down safely at home wherever possible, discovered new passions and interests, and creatively nurtured our relationships with others. We wrote letters, sent texts, joined Facebook groups and phone trees, and made intentional efforts to keep up the lines of communication with those around us. We paused to wave at neighbours that we hadn’t spoken to before and arranged socially-distanced rolls and strolls around the park with friends. Many of us moved the majority of our social interactions online to connect with loved ones, friends and co-workers; in fact, Zoom usage increased nearly 2,000% in 3 months, as we scheduled everything from virtual dinners to social knitting, group yoga, work meetings and family quizzes!
We did all of this because, for the first time in our lives, we shared a collective fear of feeling isolated from the people we care about. So, we did what we, as humans, are fundamentally designed to do. We made sure we connected.
It was also the first time in our lives that we shared a collective empathy for feeling disconnected from our communities. Social distancing was an abrupt reminder that the social support we receive from our friends, family and loved one’s matters, maybe more than we realised! We also missed our daily interactions with community members, like the local baristas who make our coffee, or the small, polite chats with the person next to us on the train on the way to work.
Remembering these feelings is important; we should hang onto them, because they’re not uncommon feelings outside of the pandemic. Social disconnection can creep up on us all when we least expect it and for a variety of different reasons. We move cities. We age. We live with disabilities. We struggle with our mental health. We come out of long-term relationships and find ourselves with a smaller social circle. We study abroad… we are all vulnerable to feeling unsupported and unvalued at some point in our lives.
There is no ‘one answer’ to nurturing inclusive, connected communities in which nobody is left behind. We are all responsible for that. It takes a village. It takes neighbours, friends, family members, community leaders, social group members and everyone in between to build the bridges that divide us. It takes a collective responsibility to proactively and intentionally dismantle barriers that stand in the way of participation and extend the invitation to belong to everyone.
“Everyday Connectors” is a story-telling campaign, capturing the small, intentional ways community members reached out to others during COVID-19. It captures the diverse ways that everyday connectors contributed to others through meaningful gestures, through being thoughtful neighbours, kind friends, active community leaders and creative social group members. It demonstrates first-hand that social inclusion shouldn’t be difficult; it should just be embedded into our daily interactions because everyone has value and everyone has the right to belong.
We hope you enjoy this small series of extraordinary moments of connection during COVID-19.
Everyday Connectors is an ILC (Information, Linkages and Capacity Building) initiative, supported by the Department of Communities.