From Isolation to Reconnection

from Carol Stobie, Project Officer for North Berwick Coastal Community Connections

Ever feel isolated, solitary or lonely? What do those words mean to you?

I’ve been galvanized by an article called The Politics of Loneliness (Barbara Taylor, Guardian 27 Jun). As she says, “In recent years, loneliness has been much in the news. Prior to Covid-19 it was regularly described as an epidemic.” But since the pandemic struck, the language has changed. The media feature the comfortably-off and cared-for, who may quite enjoy their enforced solitude. Gatherings like our Scone Café now seem recklessly dangerous!

If you feel cared for, aloneness can be bearable. If not, it can be terrifying – for carers too, of course. “The dangers of solitude are real. Care, past and present, mitigates them.” That doesn’t mean only family care, or even friendship – it means national and local resources that help us to feel part of something bigger. Many, like libraries and caring services, have been neglected or lost funding and staff over the years, and will struggle more during this epidemic.

And yet – Taylor adds, “And in this crisis, we are turning to each other. The huge upswelling of mutual aid and volunteer action across Britain has been wonderful to witness, as civil society seeks to provide what the government does not, from food and other essentials to psychological support and PPE for health and care workers. Black Lives Matter has brought solidarity to the streets. Kindness to strangers is everywhere…”

Finally, she quotes an Iranian exile, Shokoufeh Sakhi, who experienced solitary confinement in a Tehran prison: “Locked down recently in Toronto, she has reflected on how caring about people during the pandemic has meant physically distancing ourselves from them while remaining aware of their needs: ‘When was the last time we collectively stayed conscious for this long about the effects of our actions on other people? Can we give that proper recognition? Recognising the presence of an ancient feeling, our care for others? In this are the seeds of our empowerment and a global solidarity.’”

What this means to me is that our Community Connections project must be here to stay. By staying home, socially distancing and washing hands, you’ve been heroic, and we stand by your quiet sacrifice. We’re still about tackling social isolation, and one day we’ll gather with you again – if carefully. We keep in touch this way remind you that you’re still part of our family. We currently provide psychological support through telephone befriending, complementing the Kindness Cooperative, the Resilience Group and others who bring food, shopping and other things to help.  Some befrienders will need to go back to their other duties, but others will stay to maintain that befriending for everyone who needs it. We are all enriched by this. And Scone Cafe will rise again.

No matter what goes on around us, no matter the cracks that society has to address, we will still do all we can to care for one another right here. That’s why we’re Scone, But Not Forgotten.

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