Coronavirus versus connection

To me, this unprecedented moment of enforced physical isolation has only underscored the mutual power and connection we share.

Lindsey Shuey/Republican Herald/AP
Liv Thomas adds her touches to Graffiti Highway in Centralia, Pennsylvania. Her family took a road trip to the old abandoned town on March 24, 2020.

As I sit down to write this column on March 24, worlds upon worlds will likely have changed by the time it reaches you on April 6 (or thereabouts). As we have seen during the coronavirus crisis, entire economies can shift in two weeks. My state-enforced stay-at-home request here in Massachusetts could be nearing its scheduled end (or not). Surely, we will all be seasoned pros at physical distancing.

That was one of the challenges with the Monitor Weekly's April 6 cover story. How do you write anything about something that could change everything in two weeks? So we took some of the more thematic highlights of our recent coverage and combined them into a look at how the response has shaped us.

But no matter what has changed by April 6, I wanted to highlight an idea that is sprinkled throughout our stories. 

To me, this unprecedented moment of enforced physical isolation has only underscored the mutual power and connection we share. And not merely by its absence. In other words, our power and connection are not potential energy, waiting to rush back into stores and workplaces and stadiums – though the stock market would suggest that is the case.

No, what we are proving at this moment is perhaps something far more profound and powerful than a stock ticker can indicate. We are proving that love matters more.

Just think about it. By many measures, COVID-19 does not at this point appear to be broadly deadly. But certain populations appear more vulnerable. In that light, the sum total of the world’s remarkable action is to protect those seen as being most at risk. It is a bold statement of the value of those lives and of our desire to care for them, even at tremendous cost.

It is certainly possible that the financial cost could become too great. On the day I write this, there’s already talk of returning to normalcy before health officials recommend. But regardless, it is safe to say that the influx of practical love that has been expressed by the world is historic.

It has spilled onto the internet and onto street corners (at a distance of 6 feet, of course). As one reader wrote to me, “I am appreciating, more than ever right now, the kindness of small interactions with neighbors in my apartment building and on the sidewalk – never before has simply exchanging a smile meant so much!” 

Another reader wrote of hymn sings from the doorways of her assisted living home. One grandma made rainbow postcards for neighbors with her young granddaughters. 

Here at the Monitor, we’re holding virtual lunches with co-workers and pets. Together, we are overcoming the claim that physical distance must weaken connection.

This power is active and abiding in our shared purpose and love, from Germany to Japan. And perhaps, years from now, we will be able to say that, for several months in 2020, we found a way to measure our common worth by something more than stocks and bonds.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.