Margie Carter
Margie Carter

Isn’t it grand to be stepping out and greeting a post-COVID shutdown summer? A feeling of expansiveness is in the air, and with fewer restrictions, most of us are reuniting with farther-flung friends and family.

As we catch up on these important relationships, our story telling is sprinkled with stories of the year our lives went awry, not all of which is negative, for sure. We discovered great creativity and resilience in ourselves; assessed what we valued about slowed-down lives; made new acquaintances with routines and people not previously considered; found different ways to acknowledge people and things that are important to us. I’ve been nudging my family and friends to uncover and say these things out loud to each other, and here I try that on you, dear reader. What lessons did you learn in the time of COVID? What are you proud of or pleased with, and how might you keep that in your life going forward?

Most of us who had done some work on emergency preparation were thinking “devastating earthquake,” not highly contagious, deadly virus. But here, too, we found some discoveries during the year of COVID shutdown. Those who had set aside some emergency supplies could immediately protect themselves with face masks, hand sanitizer, bleach, basic first-aid supplies, food and even toilet paper — hooray!

If we had taken further steps by getting to know our neighbors and forming what the City’s Office of Emergency Management refers to as SNAP groups (Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare), Prepare - Emergency Management | seattle.gov, COVID lockdown provided us with the opportunity to greet each other by name on the street, perhaps offering to bring groceries or share information on where testing or vaccination sites were being set up. I’ve heard stories of how SNAP acquaintances with an exchange of contact information led to home support by a medically trained neighbor when it didn’t feel safe to go to a hospital. One group organized a socially-distant (block party promenade) at the end of the work day to see some friendly faces in the dark of winter. Other neighbors found regular solidarity in their isolation by doing front porch noise making at a designated time of the evening, expressing thanks to essential workers.

So, whether or not we are part of a neighborhood SNAP group, the question remains: How do we keep neighborhood connections alive going forward? With the expansive feel of summer, can we remember to not neglect our neighbors, but rather find opportunities to get to know each other better?

We may not want to become best friends with our neighbors, but we can certainly learn their names and greet them with a few moments of acknowledgement. We may find something to comment on, an indirect or even direct way to express an interest in being neighborly.