Today, I’ve never felt more alone. But at the same time, I’ve never felt more connected to others – like I’m part of a very large and incredibly kind community that’s come to feel more like a family. How can I feel both at the same time?
Let me explain.
Our first child was due to be born on March 20th. We’re not from around here, so our family had all planned to take turns visiting. But as the due date grew closer, news about the corona virus and social restrictions grew scarier.
Then we found out our hospital wasn’t going to allow any visitors. No friends, no family, just me. Our recovery room faced the hospital’s front doors, where there were rows of caution signs and one or two armed guards stationed at all times. The staff hurried us out of the hospital, and when we drove home Saturday evening, the streets were deserted.
The world never looked lonelier.
But then something incredible happened. Over the next several days, my wife and I were flooded with well-wishes on social media. That was expected. But what we didn’t expect were the packages that started showing up at our door. Diapers and dinners, bottles and baby wipes, gift cards and groceries – some from our family and friends, but many more from people we didn’t know that well. Each of them was doing what they could to embrace our little family and to encourage this symbol of hope we were holding in our socially distant arms.
In the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there’s an emphasis on the importance of families. But this idea of “family” extends well beyond a single home. Latter-day Saints believe each of us are children of heavenly parents – in other words, we’re all part of a single, sacred family, and it’s our responsibility to create a similar sense of community wherever we are. Yes, this means creating a sense of family in our own homes and church congregations, but to mean anything, it must also stretch to include our neighborhoods, cities, and the world at large.
Here’s how one such community is described in Latter-day Saint scripture: “The Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18).
There’s something moving to me about this image of a group of people—all of whom are struggling, but who are so sensitive to the needs of those around them that they see each other’s needs and sprint to meet them. It’s a social network that cares so much about one another that they practically share a single heart.
My wife and I definitely felt—and continue to feel—this kind of care from so many people across the globe. And it’s done something to me. It’s made me want to be more sensitive to the needs of the people I know. It’s changed the way I scroll through social media, the way I email, the way I FaceTime. I want to do something, however small, to help others feel like they’re not alone. Like they’re irreplaceable.
Like they’re part of a family.
The good news is, every one of us can nurture a feeling of family, even in isolation.
And so, if you’re feeling lonely today, that’s okay. Pretty much everyone feels that way right now. But you can say, type, or do something right now that will make you and whoever you’re interacting with feel connected and cared for.
When you boil it down, the answer seems simple: Never ignore a feeling to act kindly toward someone you know—no matter how well you know them or what that feeling of goodness urges you to do.
Through my own experience, I’ve learned that, even though we’re all living in isolation, each of us can do something right now to create a sense of belonging. Through small words and specific acts of kindness every day, we can make something that feels a lot less like a community, and a lot more like a family.