Ideas Worth Sharing When Your Sense Of Community Is Couched In Social Distancing

“Ask not what staying home on the couch can do for you, but what staying home on the couch can do for your country.”

– Karen on Twitter

This is a bizarre time.  Who knew patriots wore lounge pants diving their way to the bottom of another pint of Cherry Garcia.  And we need lots of patriots now. We all have a role to play here to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Daily, we watch the selfless actions of our heroes: healthcare workers, grocery stockers, first responders, truck drivers, delivery folks and more.  Staying home so they can stay healthy is an imperative. You need to picture them before you ever get in your car. They are essential. Is your errand? Stay at home. Stay apart. Stay put. Stay safe. Stay active. Stay healthy. A healthy distance from anyone and everyone.  Keep our heroes and neighbors safe.

At North Star, we spend our days (and some nights) studying the character of places and their people.  Every place is different. Every place is distinct. But we are at home now, too. We don’t get to experience places firsthand like we once did.  Until we can again, our appetite for the special and unique and odd and inspiring has shifted online and old-school (books and newspapers). We want to understand the heart and soul of a place, its character and culture.  That’s where the authentic distinction is found for every community.

So how do you find the character of a place when most have gone inside?  You just have to look a little closer. Online or on the street. As we search digital rabbit holes, we have found that residents, neighborhoods, and communities have gotten inventive and creative in ways that can reflect the character of their place, encourage social distancing, and express their gratitude.  They are winning at the idea of gathering apart. Most of us have seen coverage of large cities applauding healthcare workers and first responders or Italian balconies and corridors filled with song. Here are a few of our other finds recently:

Neighborhoods in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and Olathe, Kansas, host dinner parties or Taco Tuesdays where they dine at the end of their driveways.  Close but not too close.

Aurora, Illinois decorates the staff entrance to the Rush Copley Medical Center with chalk messages and signs of support and gratitude, calling it the Sidewalk of Strength and Support.

Downtown York, Pennsylvania is known for its First Friday events with food and music and fun and shopping.  They have taken it online with a dance party (and prom), virtual art galleries, takeout promotions, online retail deals, yoga classes, podcasts, music performances, and even a Quarantine Maker Challenge (York is celebrated for its maker’s spirit) that you can do at home.

Gallatin, Tennessee demonstrated its True Grit and Amazing Grace with a prayer parade for the patients and healthcare workers at Sumner Regional Medical Center who had a surge of patients following an outbreak at a nursing home.

Denison, Texas encourages people working from and staying at home to participate in a daily Facebook photo contest with prizes.  There’s a different theme each day. Friday’s was devoted to the best Denison spirit in branded apparel.

Visit Columbus, Indiana has created virtual puzzles of famed and beautiful sites across the destination including art and architecture.  And they are fun to do. Here’s hoping these stay long after we hit the road again.

We have found stories from the Northeast to Florida and California of people decorating front windows or porches with artwork, shapes, stuffed animals and more and then inviting passers-by on foot or in cars to identify all of the items as a visual scavenger hunt for families.  For those old enough to remember finding the toaster in the tree of the Highlights magazine puzzle at the dentist, it is just like that but live action and memorable, an I Spy game from the street.

Lakewood, Ohio and Berkeley, California host community-wide singalongs at a designated time, filling the streets  with music. Or there’s the front porch dance party in parts of Buffalo.

Minneapolis, Minnesota and other communities reach young people on platforms they prefer.  They are using TikTok to entertain first and deliver a layered health message second.

Some neighborhoods have become strolling galleries for chalk masterpieces. Or avenues to display high school senior art students’ final works.

Have a megaphone?  Will Bingo. A Bayville, New Jersey neighborhood used a megaphone to call out Bingo for the entire street.

Teachers across the country are leading parades through their students’ neighborhoods offering encouragement for learning from home.

Communities have added workout stations on different loops through neighborhoods or parts of town where walkers or runners or families can stop and do some circuit training.  Like at stop #10, you do 3 sets of 10 jumping jacks.

And we applaud Johnson City, Tennessee for shifting their “Go. All. Out.” brand message by encouraging people to “Stay. All. In.” and complete the census or contribute to the health of their community in other ways.

We are thrilled to see creativity and ingenuity devoted to a strong sense of community even during these times of social distancing.  American communities are showing the depth of their character every day as we face this crisis. We are eager like everyone else to get back on the road when it is safe for all of us.  Until then, we urge everyone to follow the advice from President Teddy Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” For most of us, that means staying home on our couch. It is essential for the safety of all of us, especially those essential heroes.  And since many of us have altered business casual to something that may or may not include pants, please stay home.