June 5, 2020

We need each other

Most of us know how much our friends and loved ones mean to us, and welcome mutual affection, even if we are a little shy sometimes about receiving it. That being said, it’s true that relationships and meaningful connections help make our world go ‘round. Although this is important at all times, it is especially so as we continue to face the pandemic and now also protests for equality. We need each other.

During a few recent calls with Lechayim “regulars”, I listened to people talk about how much they miss their friends. “I wish we were still eating lunch together in Beth Israel’s big room with the beautiful windows.” Lonesome as they may be, these people still expressed gratitude for Betsy Haimson’s cheerful leadership of our now weekly “Yoga From A Chair” exercise group via Zoom, as well as for Paul Borowsky’s rolling out of events that can be joined in on from home.

It’s heartwarming to hear folks commending JSS for keeping its doors open during the pandemic. As a case manager remotely working from home, I find it amazing that some relationships are even flourishing, as we “stay in place”. Thankfully, physical distancing has not brought social relations to a screeching halt. This is to our benefit, particularly as we sort our feelings about things that are happening across our country today, and wonder where they’re leading.

Though we miss seeing you at JSS, we are fortunate to have sophisticated “smart” phones to help us with our work. As our lack of face-to-face contact drags on, telephone calls increasingly begin and end with people saying “thank you” for kindness, and for services received. Likewise, those who receive services also appreciatively give as they thoughtfully ask staff questions such as “how are you?” A gentle cycle of gratitude and giving has emerged that mirrors back to us our warm connections with one another. May this ground us as we move forward during our time of uncertainty.

What are some other ways that we can be there for ourselves and for each other?

Some young adults deepened their connections with each other and the community by volunteering in a creative way. My daughter is a student at the UW-Madison Mead Witter School of Music. With most places still being closed, I thought she was joking when she invited me to attend a sixty-minute performance with her last month. It was real, though, and from the comfort of our living room, we watched “The Virtual Benefit Concert for The Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin”. The young performers raised $2,665 for the food bank, definitely exceeding their original goal of $500. Now, that is what I call identifying a serious issue and doing something about it!

Dave Isay is the founder of the independently funded nonprofit organization called StoryCorps. Have you heard NPR coverage of Dave Isay over the years, or read any of his books such as “Listening Is an Act of Love”?

Others have actively participated in StoryCorps, an organization with a mission “to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” Since 2003, more than 400,000 people have recorded interviews that are preserved as legacy for future generations in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. I am proud that a close friend and I recorded an interview in 2008; please note that StoryCorps also provides personal copies of interviews to those who participate. We really benefited from this activity. If you want to learn more and even listen to some fascinating stories, please visit the website at www.storycorps.org.

In this day and age, we may inadvertently forget that some members of our community enjoy receiving “snail” mail through the postal service The joys of creatively putting pen to paper are not forever lost. Some consider handwriting letters and cards an art form, and there is still something romantic about poems, no matter your age, whether the subject is about love, or nature, or anything else. No matter our approach, let’s “stay in touch” as we “stay in place”. If you would like a local “pen pal”, please contact me.

During these difficult times, we all hope for good health and peace and the chance to be together again, soon. Until then, please recall the grounding nature of interpersonal connections, and of love. With regard to staying in touch, we all have stories and ideas, and I am so interested in hearing yours if you’d like to share them. I am easy to reach by phone  (608-424-4568) and by email (joni@jssmadision.org). I leave you with a quote:

“The quest for meaning is the key to mental health and human flourishing.” -Viktor Frankl

~Joni Pico