Connection & Compassion in the Smallest Encounters

During recent months, many articles have been written on the topic of love – especially on how to find or sustain it during the the coronavirus pandemic. We know, and feel, that our relationships are changing in many ways. We see each other less, but we have more contact online.

But what about the relationships we have with the few people we pass on the way to the supermarket, in the metro, or out on a run? What has changed in these smallest of encounters with our fellow humans? It seems to me that the way we engage and relate to strangers on the street is changing, too.

Strangers Become Threats

With the virus spreading quickly, we have been told to physically distance ourselves from one another. Out in the streets, we give each other a wide berth. However, with physical distance comes an emotional distance, too. Strangers become potential ‘threats’ – potential carriers of the virus that can harm us or those around us.

The coronavirus brings more division than ever. The ‘other’ becomes something completely separate from us – not somebody to respect and engage with, but some ‘body’ to avoid. We see such thinking acted out in the physical fights happening in supermarkets and in the xenophobia and racism being shown.

Though such behavior is outrageous and unacceptable, it is important to acknowledge the heightened levels of anxiety people are experiencing. With more people feeling on edge, aggression and violence may result. More generally, many people are experiencing mental ill-health due to the pandemic, with feelings of depression and loneliness seemingly rising. All the more reason to connect and stand strong, together.

Face Masks, Communication and Understanding

Face masks make it harder to communicate and understand others. Of course, wearing a mask is sometimes necessitated by someone’s line of work, or is recommended by a government. It is relevant, though, to keep in mind that wearing a face mask changes something in our non-verbal communication. Facial expression is key to expressing ourselves and in understanding others. Kathleen M. Pike, Director of the Columbia-WHO Centre in Global Mental Health, explains that:

We need to remember that as our masks intercept the transmission of coronavirus, they also intercept important non-verbal communications that are universal to our emotional connection.

Physical Distancing Does Not Equal Emotional Distancing

With or without face masks, our relationships with the people we encounter while we go about our days are changing. Many people are longing for intimacy, but finding it hard to find while we are obliged to keep our distance. We can, however, offer the people we pass warmth through our eyes, our tone and our energy.

We can acknowledge other people’s existence and humanity, instead of turning away or looking at them through a lens of fear. Let’s draw smiles on our face masks, and wave at those on the other side of the street. Not knowing how much longer we’ll need to keep our physical distance, we could do with learning how to connect to others during even the smallest of encounters.

In Conversation With Scarlett Hawkins

Scarlett Hawkins is a sexual and reproductive health and rights advocate from Australia. In this interview with Girls’ Globe, she talks to us about what that well-used phrase ‘meaningful youth engagement’ actually means, and describes some of the barriers young people face when trying to enter sectors such as international development or human rights.

“I think hustle culture has been hugely detrimental to the wellbeing of not just young people, but a lot of people working in this space.”

For Scarlett, the support she’s received from mentors has been an important part of her advocacy experience so far. She knows, though, that many young people don’t have access to the same kind of mentorship that could help them to shine.

“It would be really magnificent if people who were established in this space would more actively seek mentoring opportunities, and not just with people who are already rising or emerging stars.”

This video was made possible through a generous grant from SayItForward.org in support of women’s advocacy messages.

#TheWorldNeedsMore…

Today is World Humanitarian Day. Listen to Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, explain what this day is for and how we can turn words into action! 

This year the World Humanitarian Day project is a month-long campaign of events around the world to raise much-needed funds to continue the effort to help others. This is done through the power of WORDS. Brands, organizations and individuals can sponsor words to support projects that are helping people on the ground – so every time you say #TheWorldNeedsMore #Equality, you actually support a more equal world!

We are raising our voices on this day and sharing what we think #TheWorldNeedsMore.

TheWorldNeedsMore

Read more, raise your voice, sponsor words and donate to what you think the world needs more of! The campaign continues 37 more days, so say something and create change!

Go to WorldHumanitarianDay.org