In the wake of yet another string of senseless deaths, there are renewed calls to listen more deeply – to each other, to Black Americans, to the injustices that have fueled protests across this country. Ahmaud Arbery, Christian Cooper, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. The fact they lost their lives is by itself reprehensible. Added to these events is the disproportionate coronavirus death toll on black lives, all of which adds to the extraordinary stress that black and brown bodies have had to endure for hundreds of years. So, if you are sad, you are not alone. If you are angry, you are not alone. If you have mixed emotions, you are not alone. And yet, so many feel alone.
As my colleague Pearce Godwin wrote in a recent USA Today column, “America is crying out in pain.” For some of us, it is the pain of losing a job. For others, it is the pain of losing a family member. For all of us, we are experiencing the pain of being physically distant while trying to remain socially connected. Reaching out to friends, family members, and others with whom we are intimately connected is important. Research clearly shows that people with fewer meaningful social contacts are at higher risk for a variety of health-related problems such as depression and cardiovascular disease, and loneliness is as strong a risk factor for all-cause mortality as smoking and obesity. At the individual level, the ability to have frequent, meaningful, in-person interactions can mitigate feelings of loneliness and, as a result, potentially counteract the detrimental mental and physical health effects of not feeling heard. At the same time, when we only reach within our own networks, we can lose sight of how others, those outside our immediate circles, are experiencing this moment.
Since early March, I have been part of a collaborative social and community campaign to ensure we learn the lessons from this pandemic, use this time to heal our divisions, and create the firm footing of connection that will allow our nation and democracy to thrive after the pandemic. Listen First Project | National Conversation Project (powered by over 300 organizations) and the Aspen Institute’s Weave Project launched #WeavingCommunity as a response to our collective moment of crisis. It seeks to invite honest conversation, authentic human connection, and meaningful civic action. It strives to turn this moment of shared pain into a moment of shared possibility. The campaign’s goal is to ensure that we do not go back to the divided, self-centered, and lonely culture that has given us rising deaths of despair, gridlocked politics, and hateful rhetoric and deeds. The goal is to ensure the pandemic drives us together, rather than apart.
The initiative is called #WeavingCommunity because community doesn’t just happen. We only feel part of a community when we have a shared story or identity. That link might be as simple as sharing a place, with its streets, parks, and stores; or it might be sharing a history, a culture, values, dreams, or experiences. For a community to feel like home, we have to build relationships and work together. That is what we are inviting all Americans into.
We use “weaving” as an image of how individual people, like threads, come together to create a strong fabric that connects and sustains us all. We took the term from author and columnist David Brooks, who often writes about Weavers – people creating deep relationships in their communities.
We are grateful to the many partners responding in service to our neighbors and nation, including Thrive Global. We want all Americans to join us on this journey and begin #WeavingCommunity where you are. To learn more, visit weaving.us or follow the campaign’s social media feeds on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.