How to find connection when gathering is limited

Home. What a powerful word. When COVID hit our little community earlier this year, I remember thinking that home was the one place I could go and feel safe. Even in the middle of working from home, eating at home, and doing school at home, our family experienced something we had been missing for quite a while – each other. And as I look back on this year, with all of its disappointments, hurt and tragedy, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the extra time I’ve been able to spend with my children and family.

But I also remember seeing a good friend again after the shutdown; seeing her face and hearing her voice was incredible. Being around friends as things began to open up reminded me that we aren’t meant to be alone and we aren’t meant to do life alone.

Humans weren’t created for isolation; we were created for community and we thrive when we’re sharing our lives and experiences with others.

As Mr. Rogers beautifully said, “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

So that’s the question: in this time, when community and gathering is discouraged, what can we do to foster the connection we’re all missing? How can we fill that need inside of us to connect with another human soul in a meaningful way?

As so many families have done this year, our family is taking advantage of the current home market and we are in the middle of selling our home. And as we’re dreaming of our new home, what it may look like and how it will be different, we can’t wait to have friends over when it’s built. As we talk about it together, we envision having family come stay with us, planning slumber parties and game nights and hosting happy hour on the patio every Friday night.

Even though COVID doesn’t allow us to gather in large groups for a wedding or a concert, creating the moments that may matter the most are still possible. Because at the end of the day, making a real connection with another person is truly invaluable. Hearing someone’s story, sharing disappointments, and celebrating things we have in common has got to be one of life’s greatest interactions. When you know that you’re not the only one going through a problem or heartache, it’s freeing and comforting. COVID hasn’t stopped that kind of connection!

As for our family, we’ve committed to reaching out to at least one friend a week to have lunch or dinner with. It’s been so fun and interesting to hear people chat about all of the ideas and feelings they have that have been bottled up for months. Conversations last for hours as we’re able to finally interact and share what we’ve all been going through.

We’ve also tried to do the same with our children as they experience COVID in their own ways. Even though their online gaming and online connection has increased over this time (too much!), we still encourage them to hang out with one friend a week. Our oldest child is in high school now, and every once in a while, he will talk about not having enough friends – to which we remind him that in life you only need one or two really good friends, and that’s enough.

That’s such good advice for adults as well. Having one good friend that you can celebrate with, and go through tragedy with, is so vital. Who do you text when something great happens? Who do you call when something tragic happens? If you don’t have a person, there’s no better time to foster a relationship than now. As people are yearning for connection, you’ll find quickly that you’re not alone. Reach out to a friend, meet outside for coffee, (or my new favorite Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew from Starbucks!), and work on your friendship muscle. When I was younger, I used to believe that a person could only connect with another person if they had similar life values, or similar experiences or similar political views. But as I grow older, I’m fascinated by people that believe differently than me and by those who have had drastically different experiences than me. I’m captivated to learn from another person who sees the world in new ways.

COVID has definitely highlighted the idea that we need connection and community, but I’m not sure that our disconnectedness can be blamed completely on COVID as much as we’d like it to. Maybe the real challenge is that connecting with another person on a heart level is scary and intimidating. Being vulnerable with another person isn’t something you do every day. But as one of my favorite authors, Brene Brown, says, “Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” It takes vulnerability to find a soul connection. It takes courage to reach out to another person in hopes of finding a friend.

So who’s your person? If someone’s face doesn’t pop into your head immediately, think of someone who you would like to be your person. Take a courageous step and ask them to go have coffee or visit one of the new restaurants in town with you. Or invite them to your home. Host happy hour on your patio on a Friday night. You may spark the beginning of something that no pandemic could ever take away.

Julie Lewis is the Associate Pastor at Steamboat Christian Center, a wife and mother of two, and has lived in Steamboat Springs for the last 15 years.

Gathering Safely

By: Robin Schepper, Routt County Office of Community Engagement

While community is important, gathering safely is critical.  The state of our county’s health is in flux as we all continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, and adhering to health guidelines is not only wise, it’s mandatory. 

As of the date that we printed this story, Routt County COVID Regulations restrict personal gatherings to:

  • Less than 10 people
  • No more than 2 families

Get the most up-to-date information on public health orders here: