This pandemic has found a way of challenging us, not only in how we conduct ourselves in our daily lives, but also the very fabric of our society. It can be very difficult to feel a sense of communal solidarity when you find yourself self-isolating on your own. Fear can also make us more selfish and put our needs first. And yet, humans are social animals. We seek connections with others, and a positive outcome of the situation we find ourselves in, is that many of us are doing our best to come together and show solidarity.
The very definition of solidarity, according to Lexico is “unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group”. It brings together the words “unity”, “individuals”, “common” and “group”. This blog will explore ways we can bring about unity, and how small actions can bring about big communal change.
Respecting each other’s personal space
Showing respect is all about knowing that there may be differences between us but being able to accept them, thus building feelings of safety and trust. This can be exercised by accepting the views of others but also by respecting their space. If you need to go out to do your shopping, you can exercise respect to those around you by social distancing and keeping a 2 metre distance between you. Respect a queue and do not try to push or hurry those in front of you. Such measures show respect not only to yourself but also others from the possibility of getting sick.
Oftentimes, we find that news headlines or posts on social media are written to entice an emotion in the reader. This can make it easy to get wrapped up in the story and not exercise critical judgement. Try to approach such statements with a critical voice. What is the message they are putting across? Why does this person/entity want to pass on this message? What emotions does it elicit in me? Does it clash with what I already know or is it perhaps confirming it?
Whether it’s supporting a local farmer, offering to buy medicine for your elderly neighbour, or buying a voucher from your hairdresser, there are multiple ways you can reach out and support those in your local community. Be an ally to those who may not actively ask for help. Show empathy to those who are struggling because they lost their job or they think they have a bleak future. Offer to listen to their fears and worries, and try to find creative ways in which you can be of support to them. Remember, support is not necessarily monetary, it could be lending a listening ear, calling regularly to check up on them, running errands for them, offering to listen to mass on television together, cooking them a meal or helping them with administrative tasks such as paying bills online.
Be mindful in your everyday activities
Be aware of the space around you and how you may be affecting others. In such trying times, resources can be limited. Some “luxuries” that we are accustomed to may not be a necessity anymore, or might be of more use to others. If you live with others who need to work from home, avoid using the Internet while they are on a conference call to reserve them enough bandwidth to avoid connection problems. Be mindful not to buy more food items than you need. Avoid doing activities that may be loud or otherwise bothersome to your neighbours early in the morning or late at night. One small change to your lifestyle can have a great impact on that of others.
To conclude, I invite you to read the below quote by the Dalai Lama and reflect on the following questions: Where do you fall when it comes to solidarity with others? Do you feel you do too much, too little, or as much as you can? Can you think of new and innovative ways you can support your community?
Our world and our lives have become increasingly interdependent, so when our neighbour is harmed, it affects us too. Therefore, we have to abandon outdated notions of “them” and “us” and think of our world much more in terms of a great “US”, a greater human family.
Petra Borg is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.