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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 05/28/21 – Singing Together in the Lifeboats

“Life Is a Shipwreck, But We Must Not Forget To Sing in the Lifeboats” - Voltaire

Last Thursday, Julie and I drove home from Maine and the next day I attended an in-person training (the first in a long time). The next morning, I hopped on a plane and flew to Cincinnati by way of Charlotte, North Carolina. I then drove back towards Allentown, this time from the west rather than the east with my father and stepmother. Not only was it the most ground I have covered in a long while, but it is the most I have been around people outside of our small circles in over a year. I was around people in ways I missed a great deal through the pandemic.

It felt wonderful to just be around people. The training was on Mindful leadership. It was excellent, but even more so because I was in a room full of people. We were able to have the kind of dialogue that comes out of open, face to face communication. That there is more spontaneous communication is one factor, another may be that a lot of human communication is non-verbal. My personality type may be a factor, I tend to pull in a lot of my world though nonverbals and so a I have felt like part of my world has been missing for this long year. It has not all been bad, and I have learned some stuff along the way and honed some of my other skills in isolation, but it is wonderful to be back in rooms with humans. I say this even as I am a bit on the introvert scale, I can only imagine what the full out extroverts went through.

We are social beings as this article discusses. Humans are hard wired to connect. A few weeks back, Julie and I had our first dinner in a long time out in public. It felt good to be having a dinner in the same room with others. I noticed the same thing this week walking through airports or being in other public spaces. On the plane, I did what I used to do, I wrote on my laptop and watched the clouds roll by. For some reason, I find that I can write more easily in such spaces with other people. I have yet to hit a coffee shop and sit in the corner while people come and go, but I will probably do so sometime soon. It turns out I am not alone, this guy wrote a blog post about writing in coffee shops. According to this NYT post the hum of a coffee shop can boost productivity. This also works for me in planes, airports, and hotels. Being together with people feels good. I have missed the communal hum of the collective.

Will we come to appreciate each other more as we come out of this plague year? I also wonder how we may as a collective come to appreciate some of these smaller things in life that we may not have fully appreciated in the before times. I keep looking at the literature to see what is coming out on this topic. This recent study on vets with PTSD noted that a subgroup of the roughly 40% of the over 3,000 vets with PTSD studied experienced some post traumatic growth as we moved through the pandemic. As stated in the study, “these changes are particularly pronounced among veterans with pandemic-related posttraumatic stress symptoms, who are likely engaging in deeper, reflective processing of the pandemic that can help stimulate such changes.” The findings include a “greater pandemic-related posttraumatic growth, particularly greater appreciation of life and improved relationships with others” as positive outcomes.

I wonder if we may experience such post traumatic growth in our larger society. That coffee shop writing experience that I see in my near future may be relished by others as well. One of the things I have been wondering about lately is how we may try and boost our collective post traumatic growth. Even prior to the pandemic, as a society we were in desperate need for a greater appreciation of life and a sense of connection to each other. We should be well aware that social isolation increases violence and impacts physical health and figuring out ways to bring people together. I am not sure what we can do on a societal level to bring people together or to improve our societal regard for each other, but I am pretty sure that like everything else, it starts with our individual actions.

I am trying hard to show positive regard for those around me and to be polite and respectful. It can come down to small things, like spending a fraction of a minute acknowledging the person serving me at a restaurant or at the grocery store in a sincere way. While I do not pretend to have the answer for everything, I do know that when I am going through a rough day, having a stranger be polite to me helps me, as small as this may seem. Being nice to strangers also helps lift my day. We are all going through stuff and we can either drag each other down or lift each other up. I am not saying I am anywhere near perfect at it, but I try. We are really all in this together, we should start acting like it.

If no one has told you that they appreciate you today, allow me to be the first. Life can be rough, and we are all better off when we help each other get through our limited time here together. If I were to add anything to the Voltaire quote above, I would suggest adding the word “together.” Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing together in the lifeboats. This gratitude Friday, I am grateful for my connection to you, however we are connected. We are in this boat called life together. Singing sure beats hitting each other with the oars, lets choose singing.

What are you grateful for today?

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