From my Lexicon of Life-Lifting Words: Close – Closeness
They call it social distancing.
While I pondered how many cans of soup to buy, a lady wearing a thick weave cotton canvas double-layered surgical mask turned down my grocery store aisle. Startled by my presence, her eyes widened with fear and, without hesitation, spun her market basket around and dashed to the next aisle.
While it may be necessary to “social distance” for a while, we cannot for long let our fears limit our closeness. People need people – not six feet away; we need people nearby, touchable, and hug-able.
Mental health experts are concerned about the long-term impact of social distancing on our society. Lots of problems arise when we are quarantined or told repeatedly and authoritatively, “STAY HOME.” Stress, insomnia, emotional exhaustion, and substance abuse are only a few of the possible negative effects of quarantining. That’s why solitary confinement is so hard on prisoners – they have no one to talk to, no one to touch, and no one to be close to.
In a 2015 study, researchers discovered the likelihood of dying increased by 26 percent for those who reported loneliness, and 29 percent by those who were socially isolated, and 32 percent for those who live alone. Social distancing may save you from coronavirus, but the separation can also make you sick – very sick.
Loneliness in America was an epidemic long before that tiny virus escaped from Wuhan, China, and multiplied around the world. A study by Cigna Insurance released on January 23, 2020, revealed that more than 60 percent of Americans report feeling lonely, left out, poorly understood, and lacking companionship.  Take note: a virus can kill, but so can loneliness.
Is it possible the cure (social distancing) is worse than the disease (coronavirus)? If so, what to do? Stay close; that’s what.
With reason, share with others the space in the canned soup aisle at the grocery store. The chance of someone sneezing in your face while you take some tomato soup from the shelf is very slim and almost none.
Stay close using modern technology. My brother Dick, in Florida, and I often talk on Zoom or Facetime. When I Zoom, I use my big computer monitor because Dick is full size. We feel close – it’s like we’re sitting at each other’s dining room table though we are 1,841 miles apart.
Stay close using sincere words of love and appreciation. Emily Dickenson said, “I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word.” Tell everyone who serves you, thank you, and everyone else, you know, “I love you.”
Don’t be afraid to touch. Modern technology and kind words bring us closer, but nothing matches the human touch. We need hugs. We need to sit close together on the couch. We need to hold hands while we walk. Human closeness makes us healthy: It lowers our blood pressure, reduces the severity of symptoms from the common cold, and improves our immune system.
We consider EMTs, doctors, nurses, and similar folks as heroes because they touch us where we hurt. They don’t ask about our race, creed, national origin, or political affiliation. They ask, “Where does it hurt?” Then they touch us there and do what they can to heal us. Now it’s time for us to close ranks, stand together, hug, love, and embrace each other because we’re people – we need to be close.
Photo by Helena Lopes – Unsplash