For those of you who know me well, you know that I am a social butterfly. I love being around people, and I find large groups of people to be exciting and invigorating. Concert? Ummm, yes please! Wedding reception? Of course! Rally, protest, or march for something I believe in? Yes, yes, and yes! Spending time in community with people of all ages touches on all of my senses and brings me energy and joy. But now, we are living in the era of COVID.
During a time of stress and/or crisis, it is normal for humans to want to be together. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Connection with people is an inherent aspect of our human society. We seek out and lean on human interaction when we are experiencing the stress of life's challenges. This biological programming drives us to gather in groups, usually shielding us from mental and physical harm.” So how does one “gather” at a time when we need it most?
For me, this has meant two conscientious changes in how I socialize. Pre-COVID meant if I invited one person over, I might as well invite 50. The more the merrier, right?! Now my mindset has had to shift. Instead of doing a large BBQ at the end of the summer, my husband and I have begun doing weekly, safe, gatherings in our yard. We invite only a couple of friends over and socially distance in the backyard. Thank goodness summer in Seattle is a good time to do this. This has taught me the value in small, personal interactions with friends. I actually get to be present in the stories they are sharing rather than wondering if someone else needs their drink refreshed.
The other big shift has been getting used to using online platforms to spend time with others. This was a challenge at first, but I am finding more and more value in becoming comfortable with virtual connections. This has also been a huge shift for TEND. TEND started with the idea of gathering in person to foster community amongst women. The TEND leadership team was not sure how moving all online would affect how we connect and interact. But, just like seeing the worth in small gatherings in my backyard, we are also seeing positive growth from moving TEND online. We have been able to reach women in other states, we have been able to meet women we might never have had the pleasure to connect with before, and we have been able to put together small and intimate events, as well as larger ones.
Originally, the TEND leadership team saw being online as a temporary stop-gap, but now seeing the “virtual” value, we are excitedly thinking about what blended programming might look like in the future? Blended...the word just sounds right. It’s inclusive of all, accessible to everyone, and hopefully meets women where they are. I invite you to gather with us online, and hopefully in person, sometime soon.