This year has seen a lot of physical distancing. It is unfortunate that certain phrases catch on and become normal usage, before we have seriously thought about what we are actually saying. “Social Distancing” is one of those phrases. We actually needed social kindness whilst we experienced some temporary physical distancing.
Back in March, when we were required to return to our home countries, we were actually attending the wedding of precious friends in Oregon, USA.
Our time was full of social kindnesses. The original plan was to celebrate with close to 200 people. Physical distancing requirements reduced that to 25 people. Social kindness was present when the betrothed couple entered the church to find beautiful daffodils throughout the church. One for every person who could not attend Then, as they exited the church, they found members of the church lining the street outside – appropriately spaced – expressing their love and support.
Physical distancing meant that the family we were due to stay with were self-isolating because of their recent overseas travel; social kindness meant that a local family offered their accommodation at short notice.
Physical distancing meant that we had to cut short our trip by almost a week; social kindness meant that the accommodation providers reimbursed our payments when they were not legally required to do so.
Social kindness meant that our airline rescheduled our flights so that we could catch the last flight out of San Francisco before it shut down, waiving all fees and conditions.
On our way to the airport we planned to stay at a hotel which shut down on the day of our reservation because of their concerns about physical distancing. When our rapidly booked replacement hotel discovered that we were Australians having to quickly return home, their social kindness produced a room upgrade and a donation of masks and surgical gloves so that we could “stay safe” on our trip home.
Social kindness meant that the airline pilot waited twenty minutes for three late-boarding passengers so that they could safely return to loved ones.
The cabin crew, on their last flight, and facing uncertainty and at least two months of unemployment, were kind, generous and considerate; serving passengers with joy and thoughtfulness.
When we arrived in Melbourne the Qantas Club lounge was restricted because of physical distancing requirements; but the staff engaged in social kindness by setting up suitably spaced seating outside the lounge and taking coffee orders and delivering them with a smile whilst we waited for people to exit so that we could then enter
Knowing we were going to have to spend two weeks in self-isolation on our return, countless people offered to shop for us, loan books, puzzles, set up ways of holding conversations and so many other offers of kindness.
Yes, the situation required some physical distancing. It was the responsible thing to do. But there were so many kindnesses.
How do we develop communities that look for and express kindness?