This pandemic has been tough on all of us. As I reflect on the effects of COVID-19, I notice that it actually did not create many new problems but has amplified ones that were already there.
One of the pandemic’s impacts on my life is the lack of physical touch, though in reality I was already lacking in that department.
Even before the pandemic, I lamented the fact that I did not have much physical touch with other people. Once a week I shared handshakes and hugs at church. I depended on those exchanges of touch each week.
Once a week was not enough, though.
Physical touch isn’t even one of my love languages, but it doesn’t have to be. Humans are meant to have regular physical interaction with others.
When the pandemic started, I became acutely aware that physical touch would be more rare than it already was in my life.
The first week church was canceled, I was devastated by not being able to shake hands. The first couple months of COVID-19 were especially difficult, because there were so many questions about this coronavirus that nobody took any risks.
And I had no physical touch whatsoever.
I started keeping count of my times with touch after my first handshake early into the pandemic. Seven.
I’ve experienced physical touch a total of seven times in almost a year.
Two of those seven times were for a medical examination: one by a nurse and one by a doctor, so it was their job to touch me.
Another time of touch came when I ordered firewood at the beginning of winter, and the guy delivering the wood seemed oblivious to this worldwide coronavirus, and he shook my hand, and I was so happy that he did.
I also experienced three really meaningful touches this year. One was on a visit with my mentor.
He said, “I know we are supposed to keep our distance, but I can tell you need a hug.”
And he was right. I did need a hug. It took everything in my power not to break down and start crying.
Another time, I was having coffee with a friend, and she immediately gave me a long hug. Another person stopped by my office once and also gave me a hug.
Another time of touch came from a family who needed someone to watch their puppy; it rested on my lap for hours. That physical touch wasn’t even from another human, yet it was so meaningful.
Now things are back into lockdown where I live. I cannot even see people, let alone touch them, and it is taking a toll on me.
In this Christmas season, I’d normally see my family and play with my nieces and nephews. But not this year.
I’m guessing that a lot of our readers, especially the ones committed to singleness, are experiencing something similarly difficult this holiday season.
This is not what the single Christian life is supposed to be like. We are not supposed to be isolated like this.
But I remain hopeful. This has been a long year, but I know things will change.
Part of the reason why I believe things will change is because we are united with Christ. We are a part of the body of Christ, a community. Even though for some of us it is just a spiritual community right now, it holds the promise of a physical community.
I want to close with a message for our straight/OSA readers (I’m guessing there are at least a few of you out there):
You need to help stop this problem. Like I said, singleness in the church was a problem even before the pandemic.
A lot of single gay/SSA Christians deal with isolation, loneliness, and lack of physical touch. It seems, however, that many of our churches just expect us to fix that problem ourselves.
My denomination just released a document on homosexuality, and they have recommendations for gay/SSA believers to follow. One of those recommendations is finding communal living situations.
My first reaction was: I’ve been trying to do that for years! Do they think I haven’t been trying?
The basic truth is that we need churches to be just as active in finding community for us as we are. We cannot do it on our own.
And we need straight single people involved in those communities as well. It shouldn’t be just for the gays.
When the pandemic is over, I do not want things to go back to normal. Normal wasn’t good for me either.
I want community. I want consistent physical touch.
This has to change.
Are you struggling with isolation or lack of physical touch during this coronavirus pandemic? Was isolation a problem even before the pandemic? How can we begin to eradicate this isolation moving beyond COVID-19?