What happens when you trust fall into your community?
When Andrew proposed to me on June 20, my first thought was “I can’t wait to get married!” My next thought was, “Are we going to end up spending a fortune on our wedding?” I thought we would have to pick between the wedding we wanted and the wedding that fit our budget.
As word quickly spread of our engagement, we were humbled and inspired by the support and offerings from our friends and community. The priest at the church where Andrew sings and volunteers offered to marry us for free and let us use the church hall at no expense. I asked a friend and florist, if she would consider doing my flowers. I thought I would just get some grocery store flowers that she could arrange into something presentable. Instead, she enthusiastically said she would get everything through her shop at cost and haul it over to the island to arrange bouquets, boutonnieres, and table arrangements. A few days later, we ran into a good friend, who is a private chef. He asked if we had set a date and if we had a caterer yet. He generously offered to do the catering if we would cover the cost of food and some hired help. A couple friends offered their snazzy cars to get us to the church and others said they were available to pick people up at the ferry if they needed a ride.
Andrew and I are both used to being the fixers and the helpers in most situations. We’re both the kind of people who get called when the Zoom meeting isn’t working or when someone needs to get a project over the finish line. Neither of us is great at asking or receiving help.
It was overwhelming that all these people came out of the woodwork to see what we needed. We felt like George and Mary Bailey at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life.
We were still riding high on our engagement and upcoming wedding, when we suddenly needed to put our faith in the community again for a much less fortunate reason. On the morning of Sunday, July 25, we both woke up with runny noses and sore throats. We thought (hoped!) it might be allergies or maybe the cold that was apparently going around the island. Our symptoms got worse as the day went on, and we both called in sick to work on Monday. We scheduled the earliest COVID test we could get, which was not until the following morning, which meant the results wouldn’t be available until Wednesday. We took all the expected precautions and self-isolated.
First thing Wednesday morning, all our rationalizing and optimism was squashed when both our test results came back positive for COVID-19.
Who do we tell first? How many people do we need to tell? I thought back on all the interactions I had the week before and where I went. On Thursday, I went to a concert at the music center. I was at the library Friday afternoon then made a trip to Stop & Shop before attending an outdoor ballet performance. We were both at an indoor party Saturday night with a dozen other people. What else? What else?!?
I'm pretty sure HIPAA regulations would have preserved our right to privacy, but in a fishbowl town like ours, secrecy tends to breed speculation and gossip. Andrew and I talked it over and came to the same conclusion. Screw it. Let’s just tell everyone. It’s the right thing to do.
I sent out emails and texts in varying versions of the following:
Andrew and I tested positive for COVID-19 today. We woke up Sunday morning with colds, and our symptoms became flu-like. We had a rough couple days, but we are both feeling better. While we weren’t reckless, we have been out and about without masks since the guidelines were lifted. We are not sure where or when we may have been infected. We are both fully vaccinated. We apologize for any risk we have created for anyone else. Please stay healthy and take care!
The next steps weren’t insignificant. The library informed the staff that I had tested positive for COVID and closed its doors temporarily, so everyone could get tested. Andrew’s co-workers at the radio station went home for the day and needed to quickly shuffle things around to cover his on-air time. I contacted the music center where I went to the concert. We texted everyone, who was at the party Saturday night. I emailed the board of the Rotary Club, which met the Wednesday before and had many older members in attendance.
Since we had no idea when or where we got infected, we had no clue how many people we might have exposed. I gave everyone permission to share our positive results with anyone else they thought should know. Each time I clicked send, I waited for some inevitable shaming or worse: silence. But it never came. Instead, I received compassionate, understanding responses and well wishes.
“Thanks for letting us know. Let us know if you need anything!”
“Oh no! How are you feeling? Do you need anything?”
“Shit happens. You’re a good egg.”
“I really appreciate your courage to let everyone know. I just tested negative.”
"Are you guys doing okay? I’m around the house today if you need anything.”
Like one of those trust falls in team building workshops, Andrew and I leaned back into our community (for the second time), and they were lined up with their arms out to catch us.
The last 18 months have been isolating and lonely for many people. It was easy to get cut off (or just feel cut off) from your support network. The small moments that keep our safety nets strong and secure—chatting with each other in the aisles of the grocery store, letting someone go ahead of us in line at the post office, showing up to potlucks with our favorite dishes—required 6 feet of social distancing or maybe didn’t happen at all.
Maybe you feel like time and distance have severed some of the ropes and knots in your net. Take some time to give your support network a close examination. If you start to wobble, can you trust your community will catch you?