A personal essay
In times of challenge or crisis, we sometimes find ourselves concentrating on the small things, the tiny non-issues that aren’t essential for basic survival. Rather than fear the crash of the economy, we worry what we’ll do now that our hair salon is closed, or we mourn the loss of March Madness. It’s quite natural — a way to cope with the weight of a hefty situation that otherwise threatens to engulf us. While we know that this involuntary practice doesn’t diminish the seriousness of a situation or negate the critical actions we must take, it somehow provides comfort. I get it. In the middle of chaos, we dial things down into manageable bits that we can understand and process.
My secret, small non-worry? The gym. This regular outlet provided structure and a healthy cornerstone in my daily routine. Like my other health-nuttish-friends, when my gym closed, I rushed to order resistance bands and even sprung for a set of adjustable dumbbells. I then commenced hopping around my small living room, tangled in bands and heaving questionably-constructed weights, in an effort to boost my heart rate. Sadly, I think the greatest value so far has been free entertainment for my roommate.
So I turned to the next option on my exercise log — running outdoors. And after lacing up my shoes, I found an unexpected benefit to my runs beyond cardio.
I found people. People … everywhere. Moms pushing strollers. Dads taking sons on bike rides. Retired neighbors strolling and chatting. Couples refreshing their front yard mulch beds. I found two brothers doing a body-weight HIIT workout in a park and an elderly man walking his overly excited Pomeranian. Rain or shine, my neighbors came out in droves, spurred no doubt by the same cabin fever that irked me. And every time I passed someone, we would meet eyes, nod and wave — all within a safe distance, of course.
Those waves were so much more than requisite social greetings. They morphed into shared moments of meaning and engagement. An acknowledgment that “I don’t know you, but I see you, and I know you’re feeling the same concern and weight I am.” A silent encouragement, a touchpoint of hope forged through shared connection. We knew why we were all outside instead of at the gym, on the couch or wherever else our normal routines would have slotted us. And in those moments, we somehow gleaned great comfort simply knowing that we were not alone.
It’s just a simple wave. But it’s a meaningful one. A knowing one. One that binds us together in a time where connection is more vital than ever. So next time you’re out, take a moment to lift your eyes, smile and nod in your neighbor’s direction. Small moments like these will keep us connected, keep us encouraged, keep us strong.