Four weeks in and still going. There is light at the end of the tunnel unless the threat of the second “wave” occurs. It’s a genuine threat and we must remain prudent. But I’m handling the same walls and starting to learn more about myself than I ever imagined. Surprisingly, even though I live 99% of my time indoors, it is the outside local world that has opened up like never before. I’ve lived in Port Melbourne for 15 years, but it’s only been in the last month that I’ve started calling it my ’hood.

I’ve lived in Port Melbourne for 15 years, but it’s only been in the last month that I’ve started calling it my ’hood.

For the first time, my walks down to the supermarket and the coffee shops have become wanderings, and I’ve started meeting my neighbours. They’ve always been there but none of us seemingly had any time for each other. I’ve chosen to wander rather than rush, as I don’t necessarily want to hasten back to the bunker. “I hope that’s not an offence officer!”

I’ve become connected. And as I read in the Sunday Age yesterday, Melbourne City Council’s Chief Resilience Officer, Toby Kent, quoted research showing “that one of the strongest determinants of ability to cope during and after a disaster was community connectedness.” It’s critical for the homeless, it’s critical for the elderly, it’s critical for singles, it’s critical for all of us. Sadly for most of us, it’s the rush to succeed, to over-achieve, to meet goals, to meet others’ goals, to over-stretch to reach the finish line, that leaves us empty. I’m not going to bang on about technology other than to say the disconnectedness caused by its omnipresence in our lives will one day warrant a case study similar to the negative impact on our time of Covid19.

Connectedness – it’s critical for all of us.

Living an urban life means we view the world through a very narrow tunnel. The pure rush of it all. The noise. The angst in faces, if indeed you see them when they’re otherwise glued to their phones. I recall recently driving in the back blocks of Tasmania, and as each oncoming car came towards me the driver gave me the ‘lifted finger on the steering wheel’ salutation. It’s an acknowledgement of a fellow journeyman in life. We’re all connected. This is not typically Tasmanian, it’s typically Australian. Try it in the city and the raised finger takes on a totally different connotation. In fact, don’t try it.

It’s been a great leveller and hopefully a great lesson.

Back to the present. The world has needed a massive rain check to bring everyone closer together. It’s been a great leveller and hopefully a great lesson. And I don’t think the world on the other side of Covid19 will be the same. For starters, my new Port mob. Big picture is everybody seems so friendly. The grump down the street managed a semblance of a smile and a few words. Maybe it has been his release into freedom. Maybe it’s been freedom for all of us. People from my own apartment have real jobs and real lives and I’ve found out their names and a bit about their lives. Even meeting one on one means you have to focus on that one person. That’s cathartic in itself.

Human contact is like a social balm.

Human contact is like a social balm. We need it at the moment as much as we need to scrub our hands. The more “connected” we become in the modern world, the more our social relationships atrophy. Life’s daily rituals might seem banal, but they are critical for our sanity. Critical also, is the fact that we have to make an effort to nurture this need. We have to apply the balm. Let’s make sure we remember our new friends. But make sure, especially, that we remember how we met them.