DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. --
“Stay home. Save lives.”
These words blinked on the overhead traffic sign as I sped down what was usually a jammed highway. The eerie emptiness outside reminded me of one of those apocalyptic Hollywood movie scenes – You know, the one where the protagonist is desperately searching through the heart of a megacity for signs of a single human soul.
But in my case, I knew my fellow Americans were all around me, hidden and huddled in their domiciles in an effort to #FlattenTheCurve
I thought about my fellow Airmen, under siege from an invisible enemy that has already annihilated over 81,000 of our countrymen. I worried about the devastating toll that being cooped up and isolated for so long could have on their mental health. And I wished there hadn’t been a need for Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s carefully considered decision to extend the military-wide travel ban until June 30th (and possibly farther).
“You hear a lot in the media about social distancing,” said Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt. “But we don’t really want to be socially distant from one another, just physically distant. Social distancing sounds so lonely.”
The more I thought about her comment, the more I realized how crucial social connectivity is for our spiritual resiliency. And not just for those in the military, who often feel unspoken pressures to be ironclad gladiators with impenetrable machismo, but for all people.
Even when we’re able to be in physical proximity to our friends and workmates, it’s still often hard to not feel lonely. This is especially true in work cultures focused on peak performance. But now that the physical closeness has been forcibly removed from the equation, we're forced to use things like technology to be more creative in creating an authentic connection with one another.
This presents us with an amazing opportunity to empower our social connectivity.
Think about it. The shift to teleworking has accelerated the acceptance and proliferation of tools which exponentially broaden your breadth and depth of communication. The sky is now truly the limit.
I saw this happen in my own life.
Shortly after the pandemic hit, I created a Facebook support group for the fellow Airmen on my base. Within hours of going live, Airmen from around the world were requesting permission to join the group and offer support to one another. People who physically – or emotionally – weren’t equipped to get and give support at a brick-and-mortar location now have much easier access to resources and to each other.
This current situation has lasted longer than expected. But that doesn’t mean that being confined to our personal spaces confines our power to fly, fight, and win. On the contrary, our ability to accomplish certain aspects of the mission may have just been forced to upgrade. It’s very possible these new ways of doing things will streamline and optimize our efficiency in the years to come. Plus, this time of physical distancing offers us the space to become better at emotional intimacy and spiritual closeness.
As my spiritual mentor, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, taught me, "What some people see as a handicap is really [the Creator’s] way of showing us something exceptionally powerful.”
So, don’t just stay home and save lives.
Stay home and empower them.