How prophetic is this Italian proverb as COVID 19 wreaks havoc in Italy, across the globe and in our community too?

The house most certainly is on fire, so we may as well warm ourselves. I saw people doing just that on my four-mile run/walk through Winter Park. Kids were roller skating, playing hopscotch, riding bikes with parents, and I even saw a child playing in a sprinkler, while mom, in a mom bathing suit, chased her around. The nostalgic moment reminded me of my own childhood in Central Florida and made my heart swell.

Something is happening. People who are supposed to be distancing are connecting. No, not physically and not everyone. And yes, there is plenty of misery and more to come. But we have to grab these little moments of joy when they appear. And with more people outside (at a safe distance), maybe, just maybe they’re moving more and getting/staying healthy.

In the morning and in evenings, neighbors are out – at the ends of driveways with coffee or wine. Talking six feet away in the street, on trails or on sidewalks. More people than I have EVER seen outside in my community in my life. And others have said they’ve noticed this too.

It reminds me of the neighborhood where I grew up in south Orlando, kids and adults were outside all the time. Not on computers, not on couches, but outside walking, talking, playing. Somehow, as bad and serious as all this is, there may be a seed of something good. Maybe we won’t forget this time when things return to “normal”. Whatever and whenever that will be.

I hope that is the case. I hope that kids continue to play hopscotch and we continue to connect and share moments like one I had with a mom and her daughter today. The mom lifted her toddler out of her wagon to smell flowers in a neighbor’s yard. The little girl sighed an audible,  cheerful “Ohhhhh.”  Mom and I watched with total delight, at the little girl’s pleasure at the fragrance of a flower and the joy of discovering something beautiful.  Connection. Joy. Humanity.

As a licensed mental health counselor, I know how harmful isolation can be. As they say, “loneliness is the new smoking”.  I also know that nature is very therapeutic and even a 10-minute walk can reduce stress. Of course a walk or a chat with a neighbor doesn’t “solve anything”, but it helps us to feel not so alone. Even a brisk walk relieves anxiety and releases endorphins, so we can deal with the stress of what we’re living through just a little bit better.

Our world needs joy and connections now more than ever. We need to stop the virus, we need to distance socially and we need masks, gowns, ventilators (and toilet paper), but we need human connection and nature too. Together, while apart, we will get through this.

Note: If the stress becomes overwhelming, there are local and national resources to help you navigate the stressful times ahead. Below are two good ones.

2-1-1 – United Way’s helpline offers trained counselors who can assist with many needs from rent and utility assistance to tax prep, childcare and more. (Like 4-1-1, simply dial 2-1-1)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – call 1-800-273-8255, to talk with trained counselors if you are having thoughts of suicide or just need someone to talk to. It’s free and available 24 hours a day.

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