Doctor giving an injection to the patient at hospital
“She talked almost non-stop for nearly three hours,” said the grandmother who spent an afternoon on the deck talking with her teen granddaughter whose most enthusiastic conversation a year ago was a mumbled “I guess.”
“This is so great,” “Oh, I’ve missed this,” and “I have needed this for a long time” were just a few of the comments among members of a Sunday morning Bible study class after meeting in person for the first time in 18 months. The hour had ended, but the discussions continued among those gathered person-to-person.
I can testify to the joy in these experiences because I was there. The loquacious 13-year-old is our grandchild, and the talkative pupils are my Sunday School students.
Having been liberated—or at least paroled—from their Zoom prison cells, people are beginning to act like, well, people again. Yes, much of the time they are masked, but the eyes above the N95s again sparkle and smile.
To my tongue the restaurant food tastes much better delivered to a table by a genial server than it did a year ago served at home from a styrofoam takeaway box. Shopping in a store and being able to ask a personable clerk a question is much more satisfying than “chatting” with a pop-up bot on a internet emporium.
I have no scientific studies or psycho-social experiments to back my observations, but it seems to me that many people seem happier now that they are able to be in school in person, to be able to socialize face-to-face, not via Google Classroom or Zoom. I do have, however, research to support the general view that face-to-face interactions have positive effects on our lives.
In her column “Social Interaction Is Critical for Mental and Physical Health,” Personal Health columnist for The New York Times, Jane Brody cites research that shows “‘. . . social isolation is on a par with high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise or smoking as a risk factor for illness and early death.’
“People who are chronically lacking in social contacts are more likely to experience elevated levels of stress and inflammation. These, in turn, can undermine the well-being of nearly every bodily system, including the brain.
“Absent social interactions, blood flow to vital organs is likely to be reduced and immune function may be undermined.”
As well, our mental health is influenced by our being together with others. Health and wellness writer Sarah DiGiulio reports, “Being lonely has been linked to worse physical and emotional health outcomes and poorer wellbeing. Plus, a lack of social support can directly affect our potential for experiencing happiness.”
She explains the reasons:
- Being around other people makes us healthier.
- Our brains work better when we work together.
- Psychologically, we prefer to go through life not alone.
- When we are around people who drive us crazy, we grow.
Clearly gathering in person with others benefits many aspects of our lives; my previously noted anecdotes offer support for these findings. I contend our ability to be with others safely is the result of the 60% of the eligible folks, as of Oct. 8, in the capital region who, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dashboard, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
While 60% is a good number, I remind you that in your public school days, 60% was a failing grade. Seventy percent of adults statewide have since been vaccinated, according to state data.
If we are to continue returning to salubrious face-to-face gatherings, we must insist that the 40 to 42% of folks not immunized become vaccinated.
We must confront the mossbacks’ myths about the vaccines with the verifiable facts available to us. We must instill in the vaccine waverers and pandemic deniers that becoming inoculated against this and other viruses is a necessary social responsibility to “insure domestic Tranquility” and “promote the general Welfare” as guaranteed in our nation’s Constitution.
I want my 9-year-old grandson to run around the playground with his buddies, not be immured again in his bedroom, able to interact with his classmates only via a computer screen. I want to go to my 13-year-old granddaughter’s orchestra concert in person, not have to watch it later on Youtube. I want my 25-year-old grandson to be able to go out to dinner with his friends freely, not remain ensconced in his Washington, D.C. apartment, his “work place” for 18 months.
“People, People who need people, Are the luckiest people in the world,” sang Barbra Streisand in 1964’s Broadway musical Funny Girl. As it turns out, all we people need other people if we are to be physically and emotionally healthy.
To the 40% of our capital region community members who have not yet been vaccinated, we need you to get your shots so that we all can come together, face-to-face, safely in classrooms and restaurants, living rooms and barrooms, in social halls and sanctuaries.
Please. We need you.
Opinion contributor Lloyd E. Sheaffer, a retired English and Humanities teacher, writes from North Middleton Township, Pa. His work appears monthly on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may email him at [email protected].
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