Prior to the pandemic, my life was, in a word, busy. Rushing from work, to university, to societies, to clubs, and to socials – I was intensely focused on my own schedule. Then, just like for many others, Covid-19 forced a halt on the lifestyle I previously considered normal. I am no longer rushing mindlessly to things I want or feel that I must spend my time on. Consequently, the way in which I regard life has significantly changed. The pandemic has afforded us all with a new opportunity to look up from within ourselves and truly see and connect with others.
With this time to reflect on our actions, we must also consider the wider impact of our behaviour on the strangers we now take note of. Early on in lockdown, the vibe of public spaces such as the supermarket and pavements was quite sinister and apocalyptic compared to their usual mundanity. People looked guilty for shopping, not only for buying necessities but even for being out of their homes. I felt myself being stared at as if I was also doing something inappropriate. It made me feel infectious and dirty. We were all disconnected, not only because of the virus but also because of the fear of others which this pandemic cultivated.
However, in early April, I was struck by a simple interaction in which I made eye contact with an elderly woman I did not know, and this has resonated with me for the months since then. She smiled at me, a smile that reached her kind eyes. It was a gesture which I gratefully returned. She was the first person to return my eye contact with positivity, not fear. Since then, I have made a further effort to not watch others but to try and make them feel seen.
I have relearned the importance of looking up from my own life and looking out for other people. I am considering the actions of strangers in a way that is more personal than I may have previously. After all, we are all having a similar, frightening experience. I am trying to think more and to judge less. Many of us are missing loved ones we are currently separated from and are concerned with the stability of the future. So, please, extend this intimate, reassuring gesture of a look and a smile to everyone you come across. We will get through this by being not only careful but kind to everybody that we may have been too absorbed in our own lives to pay much mind to previously.
[Laura MacDonald – she/her – @laurzzs]
[Photo credits: Robert Camp/flickr.com]