May 4, 2020

The United States of quarantine: a time for reconnections despite distance

Last month, we were sad to see our wonderful intern, Grace, leave her study abroad programme in London to return home to the USA. Since being home she has been continuing her studies as well as continuing a long-held volunteer post at a home for the elderly. Grace asked us if she could offer us a perspective on quarantine from where she was across the ocean. We were all moved and inspired by her reflections.

These past few months have changed the world we live in exponentially. This global shut down is something most people have never seen before. Trips have been cancelled, education programs suspended indefinitely, travel has been banned and in the United States, our country is experiencing a lockdown like no other. Fear has encompassed the lives of all Americans, as our daily lives for ourselves and children change every day. This reason enough is motivating them to take drastic measures for themselves. Fear can be seen in the bare shelves of the grocery stores, where people are hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitiser and paper towels – leaving the fruits and vegetables overflowing. Social distancing guidelines keep extending by the day because of the mindset people have that they are invincible. When I go for my daily run outside to get some fresh air, my main road is still full of driving cars – a lot of people are not taking this seriously. It is so frustrating to me, as so many people are risking their lives on the front line battling this virus, However, with much negativity and stress swarming our society, I have also seen growth and positivity which I think is important to highlight.

I have seen a community join together to beat this virus once and for all. Families are reconnecting, volunteers are going the extra mile to support healthcare and other frontline workers, and parents are helping raise their kids in this new way of society. Many members of my town are sewing masks for others and donating any extra sanitising supplies they have to people who need it the most. And, an odd observation – people are going outside. Instead of being cooped up in our homes and our lives, my neighbours are actually going out to get to know one another. Kids are riding their bikes again and taking walks with their families, something I have not seen many people in my neighbourhood do for a long time. It is as if this worldly disconnection is reconnecting others in a way that we did not predict could be possible without our technology.

A specific community that has been affected by all of these changes are children. In the United States, most of if not all schools nationwide are online for the rest of the year, and everyone is working from home, if they can. This means that children at primary age will be participating in school through the internet. Zoom has become the new normal for class discussions, meetings, and activities. Birthday celebrations have transformed into car drive-bys, with friends and family visiting feet apart from each other. As families try to navigate this change in the world, they are also focusing on what the best route possible is to create a stable routine for their children. Children now are being guided into the use of more technology than they have ever been allowed before. This change is making parents and their children stressed as a result. This is especially true for children who thrive with a routine. Many US teachers have reported some (not all) of their students have appeared distressed of disengaged while on a phone call. If a child is not old enough to understand why staying home is necessary, these times can be extremely hard for them.

Going the extra mile for children during these times has been prominent in my community. Parents have shared on our town Facebook page their crafts and activities they have been doing with their kids to keep them busy. This morning, I heard a drive by of cars honking their horns and cheering for my young neighbour’s birthday. It is the little things during this time that bring cheer and positivity to more people than predicted. It is these small gestures that are going a long way to keep everyone moving during this time. Social support from teachers, family, and friends are lifting children’s spirits up and providing them with a routine.

Soon, I hope that the day finally comes when this is over, children can go back to school, and life can resume as normal. I hope this change in our lifestyles inspires more acts of kindness from others, and a kinder, gentler world. Our world has turned upside down, but light continues to shine in the places where it is most needed. I am grateful for this change because it has shown us what we truly value in life and what is important to keep a community strong. Our elders, children and community members continue to stay connected and appreciated because of the initiative of others. Right now, the focus is ensuring our greater community is safe and healthy. Staying positive and uplifting others in any way we can is so crucial to our survival right now. Support is everything.

Written by Grace LaCamera