While this online space at A Family Tapestry is devoted to sharing stories of our family connections, this holiday season, of all times, brings us some reasons to consider making those connections more tangible. As we enter what some people have dubbed the "most wonderful time of the year," I'm recalling reminders that perhaps we need to stop and do a welfare check with each other to make sure this season doesn't turn into something far different.
Just over a week ago, an eleven year old boy in a community not far from my home turned off the mic and camera during a break in his online school session and did the irrevocable: he killed himself. In the aftermath, wonderful accolades poured in about how cheerful, kind and considerate that young student always seemed to be as shocked neighbors, school associates and extended family members tried to grapple with the unthinkable.
No matter what the underlying causes might have been, there is no denying that incident was a tragedy which will leave several scarred for the rest of their life. Coupled with a doubling-down of quarantine orders in the face of a relentless pandemic, some are pointing to the negative effects of isolation upon students, and renewing calls for vigilance to combat the devastating side-effects of social distancing upon the emotionally vulnerable.
This, of course, is not something only experienced by eleven-year-olds. On a recent trip to a small rural cemetery, a family friend remarked on his conversation with the manager there. He had asked whether the coronavirus had precipitated a noticeable increase in burials there. On the contrary, the manager replied, there were far more deaths in that community of the despondently healthy than of those who had contracted the virus.
No matter how introverted a person may be, we all have a need to connect with other human beings. Some of us, admittedly, more than others. Think of this need on a sliding scale—I claim introverted status, myself, but even so, cannot abide this continual isolation and need relief from my "house arrest" every once in a while. This pandemic has upset our normal course of affairs, no matter how gregarious we may—or may not—be.
What this latest course of affairs has reminded me is that no matter what age we are, or how introverted we may claim to be, we all are at a vulnerable point at which we need to be more mindful about reaching out and connecting with each other. "How are you?" may be a cliched question we dutifully mumble in perfunctory social interactions, but there isn't a time in which we've needed to reach out more than now and mouth those very words. The ones we know need to know that someone else is thinking of them.