Connectedness keeps the light

I went to HEB today to pick up our weekly curbside grocery order. I act like this a common thing when in reality, it is only the second time I have utilized the service. I happily support HEB and not only the way they are serving the community, but also the way in which they take care of their employees. As a nice lady was putting my groceries in the car (new rules, you must stay in your car, which means you can’t help them), I was thanking her for working. She looked at me and said I guess we are all getting through it. As those words left her mouth, we started hearing lots of honking. We both turned our heads and saw a line of cars, mostly minivans, honking their horns, kids with their heads out of the windows holding signs. The signs said THANK YOU HEB FOR TAKING CARE OF US.

When the groceries were loaded I thanked the lady and then sat in my car crying. Not just a little cry, but full-on ugly cry. I composed myself to start driving home and called my sister. As I left her a voicemail about the parade, I started crying again. I wondered to myself why it hit me so hard… Am I scared of what is happening? Am I worried about what is to come? My answers to these questions were no. I realized I was crying because of the beauty of people, the kindness, the connectedness.

It is not that I think normally people aren’t kind, but honestly, I think our lives are so busy, we don’t slow down enough to see it… or we don’t slow down enough to take the time to be intentional about the ways in which we show appreciation to others. Right now time is what so many people have and with this time we are seeing the best of people. We are saying thank you to people who have been serving us each day of the year, yet it is a little clearer at this moment… we have slowed down to appreciate it, we have slowed down to say thank you.

When I started graduate school at Baylor for counseling, I remember sitting in the course on counseling theories. As Dr. Watts was explaining all the theories, I quickly fell in love (yes I know it sounds cheesy to say I fell in love with a theory, but I did) with Individual Psychology by Alfred Adler. It might have helped that Dr. Watts was an Adlerian, but the theory touched my soul. The main component of Adler’s Individual Psychology is that of social interest. The original German term Adler used was Gemeinschaftsgefuhl, and while there is not an exact translation in English, the most agreed-upon term is social interest. Social interest is the idea that a person can only experience complete wellness in life if they care not only about their own self, but also those around them. A person realizes they are interdependent on others in life because we are all connected. 

Social interest has been my guiding framework for all my work since I first learned the concept. I actually used it as the theory for my dissertation. It is always in my mind… and what we are seeing happening right now is social interest in full force. As much as we tout a society based on individualism, we depend on others every day. It is not like doctors and nurses just started to take care of us… it is just more obvious their devotion during the crisis. The lady at HEB has always been there to help me get food for my family, but it was today that I truly felt the appreciation for her. Educators have always been there to not only educate, but to love, feed, and care for every child. But in the absence of schools meeting in person, their love is felt deeper.

I cried today, not because of the fear of the unknown, but I cried today because of the beauty of life at this moment. It is interesting that in our “social distancing” I feel more connected to others than I have ever. Social media that adults complain about pulling kids away from the “real world” has now been the avenue for a connection we all crave at this moment.

There is a song by Lowen and Navarro my husband said was appropriate for the world right now. The lyrics go: “We are standing at the crossing where day and night divide. It takes all of your heart to keep the light alive and the darkness seems so endless until the dawn arrives. We’ll hold the spark between us to keep the light alive.” It seems like in this time of darkness, kindness and love are brighter than they have ever been. We not only feel our interdependence and connection to others, but we are thankful and celebrate it. I can only imagine Alfred Adler is smiling because we finally get it. I can only hope we keep it once the dawn arrives.

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