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Opinion
Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: Friendship, With A Cushion

Tommy Tomlinson

Saturday morning, I sat on the porch with my mother-in-law and we soaked in the gorgeous spring day.

A few minutes later, my wife, Alix, came back from her walk with our friend Meg. Meg stopped a few steps short of the porch and we talked for a while.

After she left, our neighbor Stephanie walked over. Not long after that, our friend Joanne rode up on her bike. She stopped on the sidewalk and I came down off the porch, but we were still a good 15 feet away.

Then our friend Michael rode up. We shifted and re-spaced and made a rectangle – Alix, Michael, Joanne and me. And then, after Joanne left, our friends David and Meredith walked by with their two kids in a stroller and their dog on a leash.

We talked some about the virus, some about regular life things. Michael and his wife have a new baby and nobody is sleeping much. David and Meredith could relate. Joanne has a college-age daughter who’s back home after the campus shut down. We checked to make sure everyone had enough bread and milk and toilet paper. We have a Little Free Library in front of our house, and we joked that I should leave a bottle of whiskey on the porch and call it a Little Free Bourbon.

It all lasted maybe an hour, and it was the best hour I had all week.

I saw people posting pictures all weekend of neighborhood gatherings and block parties, people talking and playing music to one another from safely spaced camp chairs or across the street.

Some people are still taking it too far. Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris said Sunday that people are congregating in close quarters in places like county parks. So we have to be smart about it. But even the most introverted among us need human contact as much as we need air.

We’re now a week and a half into these Virus Days, and even with other people in the house, it can feel lonely and depressing. The stories from inside hospitals are terrifying. For those of us the virus hasn’t touched yet, the threat hangs like a fog.

But there are ways to cut through the fog. You probably have your own ways. For us, it was a little time with our friends. We can’t be close to them right now in the physical sense. But for a few moments on a spring morning, we felt close anyway. 

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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