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Column: Social distancing and complete isolation are two different things
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

I am a son of the South and, as a result, I have a built-in propensity to glad-hand, hug and even kiss (especially women over 75). If there is anything I miss during this whole social distancing thing, it is sharing a moment of affectionate contact with one another.

A handshake once meant something. Jimmy Hoffa, the yet-to-be-found leader of the Teamsters Union once said, “In the old days, all you needed was a handshake. Nowadays you need 40 lawyers.”

In times past, a good politician would walk into a restaurant or a country store and shake every hand in the place. I’m not sure what you do in this current environment.

I have resigned myself to the no contact situation, for the time being.

But, what I don’t understand is the failure to speak. TV reporters have shown us that you can speak through a mask.

I have gone to the grocery store and just said hello to someone in line. One woman recoiled like she had been shot. I just said hello.

I was getting gasoline and a child was standing there with his mom. I said hello and smiled. The woman grabbed the child like I was a bad guy. I still had the mask on, but I was a good 10 feet away.

In the bus driver world, I have learned that there is a bus driver wave. Some give a full-fledged wave and others just raise a hand from the steering wheel. That continues even in social distancing.

I don’t think the whole contact thing is dead. I met my new preacher the other night. I think we both wanted to shake hands but avoided it. I think they teach a handshaking class at seminaries (or at least they used to).  

The early Christians drew pictures in the sand of half of a fish and the other person drew another half. That fish is now a popular symbol of the faith.

It’s hard to draw a fish with your shoe on a carpeted church floor.

Baseball coaches have all kinds of arm movements they make to send messages to their base runners. Maybe we need to adopt some of those in church. You could cross your arms then drop your hand down on the opposite elbow to say, “I’d like to be baptized.” The preacher could respond with the umpire signal for safe.

But, we can’t stop talking to one another.

John Donne wrote the poem, “No Man is an Island.” We need that interaction with our fellow members of the human race. It frightens me to think that there is a lone man or woman who is basically hiding behind the doors of their home in fear of this virus.

I think it is just as bad to die from fear and isolation as it is from a disease.

I’ve said several times in this space that we won’t survive this pandemic without looking out for one another.

Make it a point to reach out to someone you know who may be forcing themselves into loneliness. It will be a shot in the arm for both of you.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns publish weekly.

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