By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.
The term, “social distancing,” has become part of our language. These days we keep our distance. In church we sit spaced apart from others. In stores and offices we see markers on the floor, indicating where to stand. There are limits to numbers at gatherings.
We avoid familiar human touching. Hand shakes are rare. Hugging happens less. The hand on the shoulder is avoided. Not all the time, but in general we are conscious of life in the pandemic age. At least we do some “elbow bumping” with good humor.
I wonder what this is doing to us. Someday studies will be made of “social customs during the time of pandemic.” Our more severe distancing has taken a toll on families who cannot visit relatives in hospitals and nursing homes. There are many deaths with no family present. Healthy family members choose not to visit each other, just to be safe. Surely this has to affect our mental and emotional life.
I also wonder, then, if all this can be teaching and reinforcing something in us: how much we need human contact and how we need each other. Maybe all this can increase our appreciation of the important people in our lives. For the time being, there can be the effort to reach out with our electronic communications and the written word. Yes, cards and letters!
And when it becomes more possible, we may appreciate even more the handshake and the warm embrace, and to stand right next to the stranger in church.