By Don McCormick
While this COVID-19 pandemic has massively disrupted our normal lives, mostly in a negative way, there are some positive aspects to it. One such positive outcome is that we have been reminded of the importance of our relationships with our friends and families.
In the busyness of our routine lives it is very easy to take our relationships with other people for granted and to not put much effort into maintaining them. This isolation associated with COVID-19—this withdrawal of daily association with our friends and families—has made us painfully aware of how important these relationships are. And that is a good thing.
I was organizing some photos during this period of self-isolation and I came across a photo of myself and a group of my high school friends who had gathered at the Huntsville Downs for a golf outing.
This friendship started in 1954 when a dozen or so young men entered grade nine at Huntsville High School. Over the following five years they studied together, socialized together, played sports together and formed friendships that would last 65 years.
The photo above was taken on Monday, September 29, 2019 when seven members of that group gathered at the Huntsville Downs for an afternoon of golf, fellowship, and reminiscences. It was fitting that this golf outing should take place at the Huntsville Downs since one of the group members, Bob Slatter, was the club champion from 1957-61. He was only 15 years-old when he first won the championship.
Even when they went their separate ways following high school they stayed in contact. Some returned to Huntsville following their post-secondary education and their early careers elsewhere to live and work in the area. Others lived within a relatively easy day’s drive of Huntsville. Some moved to other parts of Canada and even to other parts of the world. But they still made the effort to stay connected.
There were annual ski trips, annual golf trips, shared vacations, an occasional high school reunion, an annual golf party in Muskoka, and so on. Not everyone made all of the planned gatherings. In some cases years would pass without seeing one or more of the group members but these were the kinds of friendships that could survive long absences. Even after a long absence conversations would pick up where they left off at the last visit.
Only relatively few people can claim to have maintained a friendship over a period of 65 years. Fewer still could claim to have maintained over a dozen such friendships over that period of time.
Seeing the photo and feeling the sense of separation imposed on me—on us—by this COVID-19 made me reflect on the importance of these friendships. It has inspired me to telephone or email several of them to make sure they’re all right. It has reminded me of the many good times we have shared together. It has underscored the notion that it is the connectedness to other people and the sense of community that gives much of the meaning to my life.
It has also made me realize that, as a society, we have been drifting away from this sense of connectedness to a community towards an “it’s-all-about-me” approach to life and, in this respect, I think we have come off the rails.
On the bright side, this isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has inspired many wonderful acts of people reaching out to help others—of a re-energizing of their sense of connectedness to a larger community. And this is very good. Perhaps this pandemic is encouraging us back “onto the rails”.
It is my hope that, when things eventually return to normal, we will remember this lesson and will make a greater effort to maintain and nurture our relationships and our sense of the importance of community.
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