Thoughts on Community in the time of Quarantine

Community in Quarantine
The CLT skyline - thoughts on our Community in Quarantine. Photo: Justin McErlain

Finding Community in Quarantine  – Feeling Together, Apart

If you’re doing this whole thing right, you’re probably currently quite a few weeks into some of the most solitary time you’ve spent… maybe ever.

As life often is, this time has been complicated and dichotomous, an amalgmation of things and feelings and moments seemingly opposed, yet held in tandem. It’s been a scary time, but a hopeful one. We’ve been separate, and so connected. We’ve seen isolation in a way that many of us haven’t experienced, but we’ve also seen beautiful, daily returns to simplicity.

Each time I walk our dog, carefully maintaining distance, I see people on their porches and in their driveways, people who live mere yards away that I have not encountered once in over three years. I see two teenage siblings playing basketball on a makeshift court, an older couple who dragged their chairs down to a patch of shared grass quietly watching the sunset, a child drawing sidewalk art in her front yard. Someone’s new puppy frolicks in the grass, and a mom and young daughter lay on beach towels in the sun. We all wave from a distance, and smile knowingly.

Indoors, we cook more, sleep more, read more. We’ve dragged out board games, reorganized closets, eaten dessert often. My car has had a full tank of gas for five weeks. The jokes about Zoom and FaceTime abound, but it’s because we’re all actually making an effort to call and not just text. We’re more aware of saying “thank you” to those who deserve it, and quicker to be grateful for what we have. There’s a general encouragement reverberating that “it’s okay” if you feel hard emotions, fear, anxiety, because we’re all in it together. It’s like the pandemic is reflecting back a microcosm of what is all of life – hard, inequitable, uncertain, scary, rapidly changing, challenging – but somehow, we’re all acting in response to that a little better than we might normally. That each human experience is different has perhaps never been so obvious, but it’s more clear than ever that that is also what’s unifying about living on earth.

In yoga we have a saying that you should “take your practice with you off the mat.” It just means, the awareness, the breath, the lessons of attunement to your body, and the slowing of your mind, these things aren’t just meant for a one-hour yoga class. You practice it there, in that microcosm, so you can carry it with you into the rest of your life.

People are in fear right now, and fear is what most often brings out the worst in us all. It’s the root of nearly all our conflict, anger, sadness, stress. But so many people right now also want to help, and give, and see the things that are hard to look at.

It’s happening gloablly, and it’s been happening in our own backyard. The Loyalist Market, a small Matthews meat and cheese shop, started making sandwiches for kids the very next day after they couldn’t come back to school. Chef Jim Noble and his Charlotte Dream Center converted his restaurant, Noble Smoke, into a full scale production line for meals to feed the hungry, and as of today, they’ve donated over 20,000 of those meals. People have given what little money they have to spare to small businesses’ efforts to give their laid off workers a bit of income. Restaurants have given away free meals to healthcare workers, and salons and med spas have donated thousands of their extra masks. It took me over a week to get on the list for blood donation because the calendars all over the Charlotte area were full. Charitable organizations are some of the few “essential” services that remain open, and volunteers keep showing up every day.

This time reminds us a little of when we got started, in the thick of the recession, a time that hit the banking-centered Charlotte area hard as it reverberated all around the country. When we think back on that time in 2008, resiliency, rather than defeat, is the number one thing that has always come to mind. Back then, we watched (and covered) hundreds of local business owners who took major risks to help Charlotte’s expansion, stalled during the tough economy, continue forward.

The recovery seemed incremental at first, and as we took risks to start our own business, we also saw so many locals offering each other support to get back on their feet or make dreams come true.

To say it all paid off is an understatement: Today, cranes dot the skyline, the neighborhoods surrounding Uptown are booming, and Charlotte tops nearly any “growing U.S. city” list. You can read more of our story here, but the point is, the community of Charlotte is what we’ve always loved most. We’re a big city with a small town heart, and in this moment when we could all succumb to disconnect, defeat, and fear, we are so filled up and inspired to see Charlotte once again rising to the occasion.

When you look around, we know you’ll see it, too. Hope is the light in the corners of a dark room. The more you look at it, the brighter it becomes.