The Importance of Connection

     Last night I was supposed to participate in an online class through a Zoom meeting.  After about 15 minutes of trying I gave up and skipped the class.  I just couldn’t get a good connection.  Today with the challenges of COVID-19 many are struggling to connect.  Social distancing has basically shut down much of the human contact we normally get.  But in this difficult season we need to remember that connection is absolutely crucial for people.  Dr. Sue Johnson says “A good relationship is better health insurance than a careful diet and a better anti-aging strategy than taking vitamins” (Love Sense, 6).  Even before COVID-19 we Americans have been struggling.  Since the mid 1980’s the number of Americans saying that they have ONLY their partner to confide in has risen by 50 percent (Love Sense, 15).  Coupled with COVID-19 we are clearly in a time of growing emotional isolation.   Think of the millions who live solo and are now being told to “shelter in place.”   Dr. Johnson shares that early studies discovered that 31-75 percent of institutionalized children expired before their third birthday (Love Sense, 22).  These orphaned children who were fed and sheltered but deprived of human touch and emotional support died at high rates; Rene Spitz called it "failure to thrive"  (Love Sense, 34).   My wife and I fostered children over several years.  I’ve never forgotten the struggle within those kids.  I think of one two year old girl screaming at my wife “you’re not my mamma” and then moments later calmly and sweetly, “you’re my mamma?”  We all need to connect both with God and each other.  The importance of social connection that social scientists are touting today is simply an echo what God Himself said so long ago in the book of Genesis.  God made Adam, walked with Adam, put him in the perfect garden environment and yet He said, 'It is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18).  It appears that part of being human is to need others.  
     Aren’t you grateful that this COVID-19 pandemic didn’t happen 20 years ago?  Today, our church can live stream; it’s not the same, but it’s something.  As individuals we can facebook, Skype, zoom and email.  Technology is a remarkable help right now to safely allow at least a form of human connection.  Today technology builds a bridge for us to connect.  Make sure you walk across the bridge.  You can even go “old school” and take some time at home to write some long overdue thank you notes or even letters.  Human appreciation is a powerful part of human connection.  There is a old Celtic saying, "live in the shelter of each other."   Many of us are staying home with families and here is a real opportunity to connect at a deeper level.  Break out the board games, even the really long ones like Risk or Monopoly.  As families are stuck together in their homes spend face to face time together away from the screens.  Don't forget human touch.  Science writer Deborah Blum says "a good hug is life itself."  Those that are extroverted or living alone need to be very intentional about staying connected with others.  We all want to know that others are there for us.  The best way to ensure that is to be there for others.  Use this time of social distancing to lean into relationships.  Think about who in your circle of friends and neighbors who is in a high risk category if they contracted the virus.  Offer to go to the store for them for food or medicine so they can completely stay home.   Find other creative ways to help others.  
     Do you know anyone who struggles with depression?  This is an important time to give them a call and check on how they are doing.    For three and a half years I worked on a crisis line here in Alaska.  People would literally call me with a gun to their head.  What could I, a total stranger, really do?  Honestly one of the greatest tools in my tool box was to offer them human connection, either with me through listening and conversation or reminding them of those that loved them; those who would be genuinely affected if they committed suicide.  
     Of course you should be safe and follow the wise recommendations of the Center for Disease Control; yet, do not give up the incredible life line that we call human connection.  It is vital to being human.  I have read that even the formidable Navy SEALs have some basic evaluation questions they ask when they find themselves in a difficult situation:  
Where am I?  Where is the enemy?  Where is my buddy? (The Power Of The Other, Henry Cloud, 53)
So much of life hinges on our relationships.  So BE SAFE, BE WISE, CONNECT.

Pastor Derek Dickinson
Journey Christian Church