The word “community” seems to be a direct contrast to the protocols for the COVID-19 global pandemic. Most of us are already weary of those new phrases the virus has forced upon our lexicon, social distancing and stay in place. Spots on big box stores remind us that we are to remain 6’ apart. The necessary addition of masks and gloves seems to ensure that a sense of community is not allowed. Or is it?
The sense of community in the midst of pandemic isolation seems preposterous. Americans are social animals. We enjoy more freedoms than most citizens in other countries. And we are rightfully proud of our freedoms and those who serve, served and those who died to preserve them in the past. We don’t like having our freedoms suspended, or delayed whether by order, request or suggestion.
Those who have lived in snow states with harsh winters remember the battles with cabin fever in the midst of blizzards and a week or two of snow and ice storms. Cooped with the kids out of school and too cold to be out for long. However, COVID19 is an altogether different beast. Even in cold states, you could gather with your neighbor in each other’s homes for a break, go to a restaurant, bar, fitness center, or even church for those able to remain open. But this is different. This is about limiting movement and with the shut down of non-essential businesses, or organizations we are really feeling the pinch in our innate sense of freedom that we normally enjoy.
We know “Community” incorporated into a well designed mixed-used traditional neighborhood is important for several reasons and has been for generations. Early historical examples of early mixed-use communities were medieval villages of the 5th-15th centuries such as in France and Italy. Built with density in mind and surrounded by sturdy city walls, the medieval village is the perfect example of a functional, productive community, incorporating all the rules of mixed-use development. This way of living, whether in the 5th century or today, benefited the residents socially in a variety of ways. The sharing of knowledge and information among residents, the creation of a localized marketplace, and the development of social capital are among the benefits of “community.” And these benefits create a social bond reminiscence of the past.
So how do you enjoy community in these challenging days?
Take advantage of open/greenspace/commons. Spread out among each other but you can still talk and wave from a distance. Just be smart about it. Keep in mind just because children are young and have lower infection statistics they can be carriers and letting your child play with another child in the community could bring the virus home and to elderly family members.
- Brothers and sisters can play kick or throw a ball in a nearby park without touching one another or touching the ball. Parents, it’s wise to supervise this kind of play and provide hand-sanitizer as needed and good hand-washing after play. Create games they can play without coming into contact with one another
- Have adults take turns reading children’s book at a certain time each evening in a common area through a portable sound system
- Have the children write notes to first responders and medical personnel
- Take walks with your family or alone. Get outside and walk the dog. Exercise releases powerful endorphins and lowers stress-causing cortisol. It helps mental and emotional health even it’s just a little bit each day. Wave to neighbors, stop across the street and chat from a safe distance.
- Be creative and get the kids involved. Now is the time for encouraging sidewalk chalk messages and pictures. Residents can walk and see them and be encouraged.
- Challenge residents to put out creative signs on their porch, or front door with encouraging messages or images.
- Put out your Christmas lights, bows, or something creative on front doors.
- Use Zoom/FaceTime/Skype to have chats with other residents staying in touch and informed.
- Designate a day and time when the musicians and singers come outside and perform.
- Have a dance-off for one particular song every day and blare it out (not late!) in a large gathering area. Bill Withers classic, “Lean On Me” and others have been showing up all over the place. By the way kids love to see adults dance and act like them.
Take your dog to the dog park, or go to the park if you don’t have one and just watch the dogs play. On walks let your dog visit the elderly or those neighbors with special needs, or circumstances that prevent them from coming outside for a length of time. Volunteer if you are healthy and protected to pick up any needed items for them when you go to the store.
Join your neighborhood Facebook, Nextdoor or any other social media platform and leave encouraging messages, vital information, recipes, DIY ideas, or just say hello. Join the conversation and stay connected. Have a contest for the best home project during the pandemic. Did someone recently paint their front door, decorate a porch or patio, paint, landscape, or add plants? Take notice and recognize them.
Use one of these social media platforms to hide an object somewhere in the community on the grounds while providing clues. Wash it off and wear gloves before you put that little troll, statue, or whatever it may be. The person or family that finds it wash, rinse and do it all over.
We need community in our lives. We crave community. Yes, times alone for deep thinking, mental stillness, reading, meditation, prayer, and decompression are essential, but you can’t stay closed off to the world around you all the time. It’s not healthy. Seek creative ways to “do” community at a distance, look out for each other, smile, wave, laugh and share abundantly. The sense of community at a distance is still community!
The best within us comes out at times like these
O’Neal Village is a “traditionally-designed” or “mixed-use” community on approximately 195 acres in Greer, South Carolina, O’Neal Village is what neighbors call the perfect balance of living, work and play just minutes from the best of Greenville and the Upstate. Nestled among gently sloping hills, O’Neal Village features a variety of crafted, single-family homes, townhomes, retail and creative distinct amenities.