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Social distancing, not social disconnection

Social distancing, not social disconnection

Daniel Grothe is teaching pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

This season we are in is disorienting on so many levels. There are mandatory lockdowns and daily routines turned upside-down; schools are shuddered, kids are at home, and many businesses are suffering. I wish it never happened. I'm pining for the days of old, even the days of a month ago, where we could go to church, and sit in restaurants with friends, and not sprint through grocery stores while taking shallow breaths, and where the world seemed to be a whole lot safer and under control for so many people. 

And the physical separation has been heartbreaking for so many people. But while many of us have to practice social distancing, we don’t have to settle for social disconnection. This is a moment where our technological advances and our social media platforms can finally help us be social and not just sociopathic. I saw it happen just last week when I got on a Zoom call with over 50 family members spread across North America, one of which was my 88-year-old Grandma Weezie. She was widowed three years ago and lives alone in rural Idaho, but there all of us were — I think I counted 17 of her great-grandchildren on the call — laughing and telling stories and checking up on each other. Was it just like being together at our yearly reunion? Well, not quite. But was it great, and did it help all of us make it through another strange week? Absolutely.

Let me take it a step further and suggest a practice that may help sustain you in this time.  Call someone who is further along in their journey than you are and ask them some thoughtful questions. I've been doing that in recent weeks. These are people who have weathered previous storms and survived world wars. These are people who have seen economies rise, and then topple, overnight. These are people who have learned to be thrifty and work with what they have. They know how to think on their feet and adjust to the actual conditions of life. They have gained invaluable wisdom along the way, and their recounting of history can help you if you’ll ask good questions. 

Questions like: “What have you learned about these moments that I need to know?” Ask them, “What were some of your greatest challenges during those years?” Ask them, “Is there anything you would caution me about in this stage of my life?” And keep thinking about other great questions you may have. Come to the phone call prepared. Listen intently. Take good notes. And then ask them to pray for you, and then find out how you can be praying for them.

Both parties on that phone call — the young and the old — will be better for it. It will give the young a sense of perspective, and it will give the old a sense of purpose. The young will realize that the story won’t always be this way, and the old will remember that their story matters. The inter-generational back-and-forth is what we were made for, and many people have lost much of that in recent years. But we don’t have to lose it. And if it has been lost, can we not yet reclaim it?

So, reach out. Write a letter and drop it in the mailbox. Remember the gift of a hand-written letter. If you can go sit on someone’s porch at a safe distance and have a chat, do it. If you can’t get out, then get on a phone call. Or learn how to get on a Zoom like my 88-year-old grandma did. But however you do it, make sure to find some people who can help you think about this disorienting COVID-19 moment with broader historical perspective. 

There is help out there. There is wholesome social connection to be found right now. There are people whom you need to call. And there are people who need you to call them. If you’ll spend this season chasing their wisdom, you will come out on the other side of this moment with treasures you would have never expected. 

Daniel Grothe is the Teaching Pastor at the influential New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Daniel and his wife, Lisa, live on a small hobby farm outside of Colorado Springs with their three children: Lillian, Wilson, and Wakley. To learn more, visit DanielGrothe.com and connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Chasing Wisdom: The Lifelong Pursuit of Living Well is available for pre-order on Amazon and for purchase at all major booksellers on April 21, 2020.

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