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  • Betty Girardeau

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I just finished attending yet another ZOOM meeting. How fortunate we are to have this way to get together and accomplish some business. But it is a poor substitute for the real thing. I miss being with people and getting to know new ones. People, by nature, want social interaction. It is no wonder that health experts, as the Covid-19 pandemic drags on, are beginning to raise concerns about the negative impacts of long-term isolation, especially for those living alone. My sister mentioned recently that she had felt like one of those medieval monks who went to live in some solitary cave because for three days she had been at home and spoken to no one. I have a friend who used to regularly give me hugs when we met, and I have missed those. I recently met a new neighbor, and, without thinking, reached out to shake hands, realizing partway through that movement that that was not a good idea. I have had a few opportunities recently to lunch with friends. During such outings, as wonderful as they have been, I have wondered in the back of my mind whether or not our chairs are still a bit too close together and, if we have to wear masks into the restaurant, why, other than the fact that we are there to eat, do we feel safe removing them as soon as we are sitting down together. How loud can we talk? Is it all right to laugh out loud? Perhaps because I am a singer, I may be more attuned to these dangers. Studies done well before this year have proven how much we need real social interaction for our mental and physical well-being. Jane Brody, in her 2013 article "Shaking off Loneliness" cited a 1988 review that said, “social isolation is on a par with high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise or smoking as a risk factor for illness and early death.” Yikes! It is little wonder why we have had a summer of continuing protests and marches. People, having been isolated and fearful of a disease yet to be conquered, have jumped at the opportunity to be part of something and do something with others, even if there have been negative ramifications on many levels. Sadly, I expect that long after the year of Covid-19 becomes history, the impact of the lack of positive social interactions will still be affecting lives. But last night I saw my huggable friend when I was heading out to walk, and we both decided that giving each other a good hug was better medicine than social distancing for both of us. As you can see in today's picture, hugs aren't just for people either.


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