To Those Who Connect Us
Eric W. Leppink
There is something profound in the connections we form with other people, a depth of understanding that is difficult to capture in all its details and nuances. That idea is nothing novel, most people understand the poignancy of those connections in some form, even if the manner in which they find, maintain, and enjoy them differs. For some, those connections take the form of a group of people they meet for dinner after a long week, with a loud and lively conversation to help melt away cares and concerns. For others, those connections come from the quiet moments spent with a close friend in between the demands of daily life and living. Despite the differences, the essential function and sentiment can be markedly similar, and fill a central role in the person’s life. The connections can be small: a familiar face at the food truck downtown who has the best salsa and a pleasant “Hello!” and wave for free. The connections can be large: the friend who drops everything to see you because one more day will be the last straw. Connections to those around us are so fundamental, so integral, to how many of us live on a daily basis that imagining life without them is difficult to imagine.
The present pandemic has posed a myriad of challenges, from fear for ourselves and loved ones to the toll it has taken on our medical systems. Some of the costs of the pandemic, however, have snuck in more stealthily—an undercurrent of fear, worry, and unsurity. One of these more insidious costs is, at its heart, a simple one: human connectedness. The daily accessibility of connections has become a luxury, found in rare, rushed moments when venturing out of isolation, clutching bottles of hand sanitizer and a fear of those around us. The stark realization that we have taken these connections for granted is a cost of its own, as we are made acutely aware of the things we must no longer do in order to protect ourselves and our communities. The hole left behind is felt most acutely in the abrupt change, but the gnawing awareness lingers. The connections that have been an integral part of daily life end up being the most obvious when stripped away, leaving behind a scramble to figure out how to fill the space. In this pandemic, many things have been lost. It has claimed our loved ones, our sense of security, our trust in those around us, and finally the connections that we have structured our lives around. These losses and their effects will linger far beyond any virus or pandemic. We will start to rebuild as we are able, to renew, to reconnect, to heal, to plan, and so much more.
Amidst all of this loss, there will be many lessons left behind, both logistical and philosophical. Amidst these, however, needs to be gratitude. Not gratitude for the suffering that communities have had to endure, but for the awareness of what there was before that this pandemic has forced upon so many. An awareness of trust. An awareness of support. An awareness of connection. Many of which existed as a reliable and supposedly immutable part of our daily lives. Amidst suffering, sadness, and hardship, we must find gratitude for the things that we have lost, and for an opportunity to share that gratitude if given the chance. It is easy to forget the things we see everyday that form the foundation of how we navigate the world. The small connections that form our lives are fundamental to being human, and the loss of them is not an experience that we should forget. To the ones who help me find my connections, and reforge them as this pandemic wears on, I will always be grateful, even if I struggle with what to say. I’ll keep trying to find the right words, but for now these are the ones I put together for them:
We can say it so many ways:
Or just a look that has weight
And a smile, closely shared,
But none, it would seem
Can ever say quite enough.
So I hope you can fill in
All the spaces in-between
And feel the illumination
That you have given me.
A turtle doesn’t need to find his home
He carries it right along with him
A place of belonging that fits him like a glove
And you make me just like the turtle
Maybe less cold-blooded and aquatic
But at home wherever and whenever
Each time that we are together again