One consequence of the shutdown in March was the immediate reduction of human interactions. On a graph, it would look like a sharp drop, one felt by the world collectively.
While I missed having lunch with my friends and sitting together in class with the same people — those absences could be adequately filled with technology and social media. However, it was the small moments of human connection that I dearly missed the most.
From smiling at people I stood with every day at the bus stop, to studying in Murray Library, while listening to the sounds of learning, friendship and life — I missed it all. I even missed playing the daily game of seeing how many university students we can cram in one bus every morning and navigating my way through the people traffic in the Arts Tunnel.
It was those hellos and goodbyes, good mornings and good afternoons, smiles, waves and small conversations, exchanged with people — some who I knew and most who I didn’t — whose absence I couldn’t seem to fill.
In my search to find these connections — safely and with adherence to public health guidelines — I’ve come upon two sources of much needed community.
The first is my neighbourhood. I’ve always said one of the reasons I love where I live is because of the people in my neighbourhood. And while I certainly don’t know everyone in my area, I’m guaranteed a smile, hello or a small conversation with almost anyone. However, in the hustle of everyday life, I can sometimes forget to stop and take note of these connections.
From waving hello to the family training their children on bikes, to telling the lady down the road how nice her garden looks, to sharing a smile with fellow evening walkers — I found myself making deliberate efforts to recognize these moments.
Late August, my family embarked on a stone-landscaping project with two yards worth of river rocks on our driveway, determination and innocence regarding the hard work that lay ahead.
On day one, we started with a shovel and the not-so-efficient method of moving rocks by hand. However, the pile stayed stubbornly the same size no matter how many hours we spent at it. Every person that passed us offered an emphatic smile and encouraged us on. By evening, one of our neighbours came over with more buckets and shovels.
The next weekend when work resumed, and the shovels continued to scrap the driveway concrete, I saw another neighbour with a wheelbarrow. Handing it to us, she laughed, saying the familiar sound of our shovels hitting the driveway had alerted her to our project, and having years of home-project experience, she knew it would help.
We completed the rock project that day and it wouldn’t have been without our neighbours. It was heartwarming to know that people we knew only by smile and house, were willing to lend a hand — or a shovel, wheelbarrow and few cheers in this case.
But community is not limited only by geography, as I’m now learning, it can be found online too. Now, I know social media is nothing new for our generation — we grew up in it. But authentic human connection online might be new.
My newest discovery has been Discord. I’ll admit I downloaded it for a computer science class, but I am slowly exploring the friendship that can be built via apps.
From podcasts about current events, to reading daily blogs about food diaries and how to grow a garden for a beginner — I’ve found online communities, globally and across platforms, that want to create these connections.
Now every time I glance outside our house, the rocks are an ever lasting reminder of how grateful I am for the community of my neighbours and for the communities I’m discovering online. They will also be a reminder that I too must be a rock, for the people I know and those that I don’t know.
While this pandemic has made it immensely difficult to find those small moments of human connection — it is not impossible, and we will come out of this even more grateful for the small moments we didn’t realize we needed so much to begin with.
Vaidehee Lanke | Opinions Editor
Graphic: Anh Phan | Design Editor