As lockdown eases, the thought that we can connect to our fellow man once more cheers the soul, but let’s not be too hasty. It seems nobody’s really that fussed. [5 min read]
March 2020 saw the UK sent into lockdown due to a global pandemic. Quickly we readjusted to life online. Where we once met up in public spaces to avoid inviting people round, we were now showing off our houses with renewed enthusiasm, and sometimes dread. If only people could see what we could see from our side of the screen. The precariously balancing books, the piles of paperwork thrown on the floor, the children sellotaped to the wall so they don’t appear in shot, unless you’re Dr Robert Kelly of course, who you may remember went viral for the very reason that the children wanted their few minutes of fame on the BBC News.
We became adept at using technology and even better at miming that people were on mute. Whilst it was at times hilarious to watch, as lockdown eases, there’s quite a few people that appear to have kept the idea of remaining silent as we return to ‘in the flesh’ contact.
What on earth am I talking about? Count yourself lucky I’m talking. Many aren’t!
Regular followers will know that I am a keen walker, so much so that at the start of the year, to help keep my mental health in check, I decided to take on a virtual walking challenge covering 1083 miles across the UK. I’m nearly at the end of that now and have come across many people on my walks, some who talk, but many who don’t. Let’s put things in to perspective. When I say talk, I’m not expecting a full blown conversation unless you want one. We’re strangers after all, but I’m a friendly person who will say hello. Reciprocity doesn’t take a lot.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely get that for some, talking is a very hard thing to do. I for one found it near impossible when I was diagnosed with a mental health condition to do this, becoming insular, and this was most noticeable in the parks because it was a public space and I was doing my best to access these once more, as well as immerse myself in the benefits of the great outdoors, however, if we all presume somebody else will speak first, then we need to forget it. We are the ones who need to take the lead if we’re to make a change.
Recently I’ve had a good couple of conversations with people I don’t know and it’s been really wholesome and an enjoyable part of the day, finding out about their lives, why they like walking a certain route, how they’ve found lockdown, and so on, but let’s take it back a step to the most simple form of communication as mentioned already – a ‘hello’. It doesn’t need to be any more than that.
I find it really sad that the act of saying ‘hello’ to people is dying. I’ll actively greet others because as a Mental Health First Aider and wellbeing coach, someone who’s always been community minded, and a decent human being, I know we need those connections. They are what link us, build neighbourhoods, and value one another – it’s true that it could save somebody’s life because it may very well be the first and only time they have had contact that day and been noticed for being alive.
This time last year there was a lot of praise for communities reuniting in Blitz spirit. The same week last year we were preparing for VE Day anniversary celebrations and streets and communities were coming together, brightening areas up, and neighbours were talking, because it’s something that had been lost and we were fed up sitting behind screens doing it. We needed to see whole bodies and not simply a face. Now that we’ve permission to go out and converse, it’s like we don’t want to. Streets may be becoming busier but it’s like we’re more isolated than we were before when we had to make the effort in order to help save our sanity.
This morning I walked the park and greeted everyone with a cheery ‘morning’. A couple of people did respond but it looked and felt strained, some nodded an acknowledgement which is some form of progress, a few looked me in the eye and nothing more and it was evident they were then tuned in to ear pods as opposed to the birdsong, and one, which actually made me feel quite sad, was a person who looked at me, and completely blanked me, or pretended to as they peered out the corner of their eye. If you’ve noticed me, it doesn’t take a lot to reply, even if it’s the nod. Maybe it’s easier if you tattoo your ID on your head and I’ll Zoom my hello to you instead, or text it.
So please, for wellbeing’s sake, smile and say hello. Let’s not revert back to how we were pre-lockdown, or worse, twice as bad. If we want to keep that feeling of community, we need to keep channels open, we need to smile, and we need to remember and recognise the value of those around us. They may be going through worse things than us, their lives may be better, but together we can make a difference to one another’s day. I refer you back to my opening statement.
As lockdown eases, the thought that we can connect to our fellow man once more cheers the soul, but let’s not be too hasty. It really does seem that nobody’s really that fussed.
Are you fussed enough to improve yours and others lives and bring colour to the day?