Coming out of three years of forced isolation, were do we begin to rebuild our sense of community? Community is the one thing that is important and universal to our shared humanity. Community gives us our sense of belonging in the world. It provides for us our special place in the world. Community connects us to the world.
According to a WebMD, article: “Social Isolation and Mental Health,” the research suggests that “for people of all ages, social connection is vital to survival.”
We’re hardwired to depend on one another for support. When we don’t get the connection we need, we’re sadder, sicker, and more at risk of early death. Yes, the pandemic robbed us of our sense of community.
We can all attest to the challenges of being disconnected from the people we loved. But, for the greater good, we soldiered through it. Now that we have come through that horrible place, it is time to rebuild our sense of community.
It is so strange how we really don’t miss a thing until it’s taken away from us. We’ve had three years to reevaluate the things that are most important to us. Lessons learned; we all would agree that we need one another more than we would ever know.
What became transparently clear doing the pandemic is that the lack of community was closely connected to our mental health and wellbeing. According to the National Institutes of Health, the research suggests that “Individuals subjected to quarantine had anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress symptoms, sleep problems, and somatic difficulties. Some of the key risk factors during quarantine were…low money, fear of infection, poor sleep quality, reduced physical activity, increased sedentary behaviours, and a lack of social support. Financial difficulties and stigma remained risk factors even after the quarantine period had ended.”
This is even more reason that we are intentional in finding and rebuilding our sense of community again. Community is not limited to the people or places in our communities.
The biblical perspective of community offers a view of community that is expansive in scope. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus taught that showing kindness toward everyone was the community forward thing to do. Much of the New Testament teachings are based on building strong supportive faith communities. Finding community through serving others has been proven to help individuals live happier lives.
According to this beautiful quote, “We were born to unite with our fellow men, and to join in community with the human race.” – Cicero. The Six Degrees of Separation Theory also supports the idea that we are all connected through our shared humanity. The concept behind the “The Six Degrees of Separation Theory” suggests that among the world’s population of 8 billion-plus, all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other. As a result, a chain of “friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. Although this theory hasn’t been scientifically proven, there have been unexplainable occurrences that continue to give relevance to the theory.
What science does tell us is that we are hardwired for needing human interaction, and when that is lacking, something in us suffers. On this side of the pandemic, it is a time for finding and rebuilding community. Where do we start?
Some of the research suggests a list of strategic steps for moving forward such as joining a class or club; volunteering; finding an online support group; strengthening existing relationships; adopting a pet; talking to strangers (Next time you grab a cup of coffee or see your neighbor on a walk, strike up a conversation.); practicing self-care; keeping busy (Make a date with yourself.); seeking out a therapist (if “getting out there” and meeting other people isn’t enough).
This quote says it best, “Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over, instead of craving control over what you don’t.” — Anonymous
Kimberly Strain is pastor at the Outreach Christian Center in Delaware.