It’s a hard time for extroverts! We can’t meet with our usual companions in the usual way, can’t talk to strangers in grocery stores, and can’t sniff the fragrances in Bath & Body Works.
These interactions are the bread and butter of our days, as are hugging our friends in church, laughing with students who are in the same room and cooking large lasagnas for our friends to eat together.
The trick is to find substitutes for our many extroverted pleasures. Certainly, we can call our friends on the phone, Skype them or find them on What’s App. We can lay out wine and cheese, and crusty bread, in our living room while our friends — only two or three at a time now — do the same in theirs. We can talk, laugh, toast each other and argue if Fontina or Brie is the better cheese.
However, let’s face it, there is nothing that compares with the feeling of your friend’s arms hugging you, or laughing and smiling in the same intimate space, or looking deeply into his or her eyes.
We need to spend time remembering every day. We need to spend time writing every day. We need to keep gratitude journals, writing each day in that journal the things we were thankful for the day before.
Whatever we do, I am convinced we need to surround ourselves with acts of kindness, those we give and those we receive. We need to call those who are alone and who might not have many friends. We need to call those we are closest to and listen to their concerns.
We also need to accept acts of kindness of others — to ourselves! Even if we pride ourselves on our independence and self-sufficiency, we need to welcome those random acts from others.
For example, one of my sons, who lives in New York City now, has a friend here who showed up on my doorstep with two rolls of toilet paper because my son had posted to his Austin friends that his mom couldn’t find any in four stores. Never have I received such a surprise present.That same son called in a grocery list from H.E.B. that will be waiting for me curbside. His brother, who lives in Austin, has volunteered to pick-up random items for us whenever we need anything.
What is the upside to all this drama and ugliness we are forced to go through? I feel that the needs of this time can turn us into more generous, caring, less self-serving people, but only if we will let it. Maybe this hardship will help turn around our country that has gone down a sad, mean-spirited, self-centered path.
This is our opportunity — not a burden. Let’s take advantage of it.
Light Bailey German is the director of writing and reading skills development at the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.