Months ago, my old TV finally gave out, and I needed a new one. I did the research, looked up Consumer Reports ratings, talked to friends, and, given the small space available in my bedroom wall unit, decided on a 32-inch Samsung Smart HD TV. Matt, the Best Buy delivery and installation technician brought it in, set it up, and showed me how to use all the wondrous bells and whistles. He was very kind and patient with me. It turned out that this Smart TV was too smart for me. A week later I still did not fathom exactly what to do, spending countless minutes trying to record a show or worse, trying to stream. In desperation, I called him. During his next visit, he spent an hour reprogramming my Smart TV so that instead of having to use endless buttons to view the programs I was looking for, I now only have to use three.
In the process, Matt and I connected. He talked glowingly about Jack, his young son. I was so grateful for the time he spent with me, for his patience, and good humor (which he obviously needed to work with a woman in her 90s), and I wondered how to show my appreciation. I decided to make a little needlepoint pillow for Jack with his birthdate.
Two months later, the pillow was finished. I called Matt, my Smart TV technician, to come to pick it up at the front desk of my retirement community as he could no longer visit me due to the coronavirus. When he arrived here, he was wearing a mask. One of the residents stopped him and said, “I wish I had one of those.” Afterward, he asked me whether White Sands needed some masks. As he had ordered a thousand to donate to a friend’s hospital here in town, he said he would be happy to divert some to White Sands. I forwarded his email to Shelly, our Health Service Administrator. She was beyond excited and was most grateful for this windfall as her own expected delivery was delayed. The next day, Matt delivered a hundred masks to White Sands.
While spending time with Matt as he was fiddling with my Smart TV, we talked about our lives. Out of this seemingly casual encounter, something happened that may make a difference in the health of many. On top of his generous donation of masks, Matt sent me a pot of beautiful yellow tulips. In a note, he wrote that he would tell Jack that the pillow was made by his adopted grandmother.
Sometimes a meeting with an unlikely stranger can lead to unexpected outcomes. In these times of uncertainty and chaos, be willing to go beyond a casual conversation; open yourself up and share parts of your life with another. You may create a bond that can have unexpected positive repercussions. Even when nothing comes out of a conversation, there are some things that happen in the moment of the connection, something about our shared humanity, about two people who, for a few minutes, go beyond superficial chitchat. There is a kind of resonance that speaks to a seldom-reached part of our psyche — the part that is activated when we spend time with family or good friends.
Although we cannot currently have these chance encounters in person, we can reach out to friends we have lost touch with. I am grateful to be hearing from some of my old friends concerned about how I am doing during this crisis. I also have distant relatives who are now sending photos of their children and new grandchildren. We are reviving and strengthening our social networks. I hope that these new connections with friends and relatives will last beyond the virus.
I have learned how to FaceTime with my assistant, Kati; we have been working on these columns together remotely. FaceTime provides us with a face, not just a voice, which is welcome in these times of seclusion. I have also learned to take classes via Zoom, permitting me to see the faces of other White Sands residents helps to reduce feelings of isolation.
Copyright © 2020. Natasha Josefowitz. All rights reserved.