Social Distance Birthdays

Today is my birthday.

And I'm celebrating it similar to the way soccer star Dele Alli, pictured left through his Instagram feed, celebrated his last month. Social distancing.

In my case, substitute the Twister with a myriad of Zoom calls.

In all seriousness, I'm extremely privileged that my housemates are sharing some sort of birthday dessert with me after work, and that my partner and I are doing a fancy homemade Mexican food dinner over the weekend.

While Zoom and social media have helped create a variation of connectedness, there are still millions of people worldwide, who already lived in isolation before worldwide stay-at-home recommendations, for whom Dele's Instagram picture is a greater reality.

Folks who actually live by themselves, regardless of whether they chose to. Homeless folks. Folks who live in assisted living facilities, be they for the elderly or for people with significant disabilities. Folks who are unseen in their own homes due to complicated family dynamics or extreme levels of conflict avoidance.

Their sadness is not ironic, as in Dele's Instagram post. Their grief is poignant.

Birthdays are about hugs and cakes and presents and Facebook messages. One day a year that's explicitly about receiving care, joy, and celebration.

Who is celebrating the aforementioned population in the time of social distancing?

How are these people receiving touch and care from others? It was hard enough for these folks to receive the 8-12 hugs needed for the internal stability to experience growth and risk-taking; it's virtually impossible for these folks now due to the heightened anxiety and mistrust around other people because of COVID-19.

COVID-19 is amplifying the relational and social dynamics and inequities that already existed. This week, please be intentional about connecting with those who have few people celebrating and advocating them.

Jeremiah Gibson is the Executive Director of NEAFAST.

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