Once a week I check in on my friend Bobby. He had a stroke before Christmas and spent a few weeks in the hospital. Now he’s home and going through physical therapy to regain the use of his right hand and leg so he can get back to managing the local bike shop. He lives alone in a small studio apartment a couple blocks from my house, so I stop by his place on Thursday evenings, get his mail, maybe bring him dinner, banter about politics, and make sure he has what he needs. When my wife was in the hospital late last year, he checked in on us. Now I’m returning the favor.
Despite all the hardship Bobby is up against, and the long road to recovery, the part of all of this that I can’t seem to stop thinking about is that each day of the week, a friend or family member stops by to check on him. I can’t help but be touched by how all this came together, a hodgepodge of friends and family whose only real connection is this one man who needs help.
We meet in front of his apartment, and we wear masks and socially distance. We follow the rules to stop the spread of COVID, and to be honest, the last thing this man needs right now is the virus on top of everything else he’s struggling with, so we play it pretty safe. But the fact that so many people have bonded together in the middle of a pandemic to help take care of a friend and neighbor, well … it’s given me an example of hope in an otherwise pretty bleak year.
Really, it’s no big deal for me; only about 30 minutes or so once a week. But each time I stop by, I get the impression that it’s a big deal for Bobby. He usually meets me at the door. No need to knock. I think he watches for me out his window. He likes to show me his improvements. The other day, he could make a fist with his right hand, and he was walking without a cane, and that was amazing. Sometimes he will say words that he couldn’t say one month ago and tell me how happy he is to have his speech back. And I always compliment him on his gains and encourage him to keep working forward.
If I’ve learned anything from all of this, it’s that we live much more isolated lives these days, where we are expected to stay home, and stay safe. But in the middle of all of this, people still need help. People like Bobby, who just need someone to stop by in the afternoon and check on them. And we can still do that. We can still be good community members while also fighting COVID. We can, I assure you. And despite how dark it seems right now, there is still good in the world, like this collection of friends and family that have bonded together to help a middle-aged man living alone feel supported as he tries desperately to regain control of his right hand and right leg. It’s pretty wonderful what people are doing for him.
Listen, I’m not writing this for a pat on the back. I’m just saying that things are tough all over, and we still need to be looking out for each other. We need to be helping our neighbors, and checking in on our friends, particularly right now. We need to be making phone calls to those we know that might need help. We need to be watching out for our neighbors, and the people we love, because it has been a dark time for a long time. Yes, we have a vaccine now. Yes, in so many ways we are moving in the right direction. But we still have a long haul ahead of us before we can begin living a normal life, and so many of us are struggling.
During this very difficult year, where we have all been holing up in our houses, we have lost a lot of the community that can be the lifeblood of making society work. And this is not a dig at social distancing or any of the safety measures that have been put into place to keep people safe from COVID; it’s more of a reminder that even though we are fighting a deadly virus, we can still check in on people while stopping the spread of COVID. We can still support our community.
We can take care of each other.
We can love our neighbors
That’s how change is made.