A time like no other

On a mission to get some food supplies a few days ago, I took in a visual from my car while waiting at the traffic lights. The picture I saw appeared unfamiliar yet strangely familiar at the same time. And it invoked homely stirrings of an era I thought had been left behind in my childhood.

Although nothing remarkable, the scene comprised a group of people loosely assembled at an intersection, each on their individual missions, but looking like a group all the same. A young family with a pram, a few bike riders, and a few couples walking through, presumably on their way to the nearby park. In other words, a community gathering outdoors.

It’s worth mentioning that I have never witnessed such a large communal gathering like it, in all the time I have lived here. It wasn’t just people outdoors, it was like everyone had come out to play.

I was taking in an ordinary picture of suburban life. But it struck me as extraordinary because most of us are not usually visible in this way; out doing things in the community, with barely a vehicle in sight. Entire families are not always this engaged and present, and a more typical scenario reflects a more disparate demographic.

There have been some jarring adjustments to take in for all of us since COVID-19 hit, a regular stream of alarming news stories detailing deaths, despair and sickness on a mass scale, a collapsing economy and unfathomable unemployment numbers.

But other adjustments have been more natural than I imagined. Quiet city streets and noticeably cleaner air have been a surprising gift. It also feels like people are connecting and bonding on a different level. There are more of us talking to one another. We are making peace with daily uncertainty, and this chapter of history is scripting all of us as new characters.

The value of a more bounded community is emerging as an increasingly prescient force. Sociologists must be enthralled. We are being shown what is worth protecting, and perhaps the things we may place less value on in the future. And that is worth keeping for good.

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