COVID-19 has splintered our human family.
But Pope Francis has words of wisdom for us to savor.
As COVID-19 made its presence known in February 2020, avowed introverts across the globe took to Twitter. @CrowsFault tweeted this on February 28:
“CDC: To prevent coronavirus stay home, avoid physical contact, and don’t go into large crowds.
Introverts: I’ve been preparing for this moment my entire life.”
I’m lucky that I’ve been spared the wrath of the pandemic, largely because I’ve played by the rules: limited exposure to people, masks in public, washing my hands to the point of discomfort. But there’s a side effect to these measures that I’ve struggled with for over a year: isolation. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and we at Franciscan Media were strongly (though gently) encouraged to work from home as much as possible, suddenly the prospect of being separated from my work family became real.
We at St. Anthony Messenger and Franciscan Media are a kind of family—a loving, lovingly dysfunctional unit. Being separated from that family since March 2020 has been a challenge for me. Zoom calls are an essential component to our workday, but I prefer in-person meetings. Slack and other forms of instant messaging are helpful, but I’d rather have a visitor in my office.
Simply put: I miss my community. I’m wired for a group dynamic.
Separate but Together
Case in point: Years ago, I participated in a Myers-Briggs exercise. I was tasked with answering a dizzying number of questions and meeting with a counselor to discuss my results, which revealed I was ENFP. In layman’s terms, I’m an extrovert who leads with his heart. No great mystery to me.
It has certainly weighed on my heart that, since COVID-19, my office is now my living room. I do not hear my coworkers anymore; I read their e-mails and instant messages. Lunches aren’t vibrant outings but quiet meals alone in my home. I’m grateful that this organization’s first priority is the health and wellness of its employees. It’s kept me well—though a bit heartsick.
Pope Francis understands. In his encyclical “Fratelli Tutti,” he writes: “A worldwide tragedy like the COVID-19 pandemic momentarily revived the sense that we are a global community, all in the same boat, where one person’s problems are the problems of all. Once more we realized that no one is saved alone; we can only be saved together. Amid this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about appearances, has fallen away, revealing once more the ineluctable and blessed awareness that we are part of one another, that we are brothers and sisters of one another.”
Words that I need to keep front and center: Though separated, we are still connected.