How “you’ve got mail!” saved the day for 72-year old Doug.
Making Friends Around the World in the Time of Covid19
This October, we all are celebrating Awareness Month in a slightly different way thanks to Covid-19. In past years, we have looked forward to gathering with friends and family, sharing hugs and smiles, perhaps participating in awareness-raising activities such as walks or runs. We realised, as we gathered in increasing numbers over the years, that we are members of a vast community of all ages, personalities, talents, shapes, and sizes. Over the past six months, due to quarantining, we may be experiencing feelings of isolation and sadness, as we find our world suddenly smaller and massively less interesting.
We’d like to introduce you to Bonnie and Doug, who managed to take the lemons thrown by Covid19 and make the very best pitcher of lemonade, and create a worldwide party in the process.
Bonnie and Doug have been housemates for over twenty years, sharing a home with Bonnie’s husband Mikel. At seventy-two years of age, born in 1948 on valentines day, Doug has always been actively involved in a wide variety of community service events and programs. He enjoys spending his days in a day program overseen by Tri Counties Regional Center. Doug is an involved member of his church community, and also keeps a busy schedule of socialising with friends and family each week. As a full-time case manager for individuals living independently with developmental disabilities, Bonnie delights in accompanying Doug on occasions, and recognises how vital these social interactions are not only for Doug and for others she works with, but for the larger community at large who have taken Doug to their hearts as a friend.
So, when the pandemic arrived in early March 2020, life as Bonnie and Doug had known it came to a sharp halt. The public health protocol and the policies of the Department of Developmental Disabilities, designed to keep all members of the community safe and Covid-free, had a devastating impact on both Bonnie and Doug’s daily life. Within days, Doug lost his day program, his church activities, and his ability to socialise with family and friends. Bonnie could no longer visit the clients she would see on a regular basis in their homes throughout the region.
We both were feeling isolated” Bonnie admits.
One day, as Bonnie watched Doug wait eagerly at the window for their mail carrier to arrive, she thought how much it would mean to Doug if he could receive some encouraging letters or cards to brighten the long days of quarantine. Bonne decided to reach out to close family and friends and ask them to send Doug a little something — a postcard, a short letter, a drawing — on an assigned date so that he would receive some special item every few days. While she was at it, Bonnie decided to also post a request on a Down syndrome Facebook page, World Down Syndrome Community, just in case there were others who were looking for some human connection as well.
Within days, people from all over the world responded with messages, cards and letters, many of them asking questions in an effort to get to know Doug and to establish a friendship. As Bonnie shares:
Never in a million years would I have ever thought a simple request for mail would turn into such a worldwide outpouring of love!
Bonnie and Doug are now hard at work each day, responding to all of the messages and mail with happy hearts and renewed spirits. Their days are once again filled with social connections and a growing group of new friends from the world over.
Editor – Janice Jencarelli Corrado 05.10.2010
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