We broke the rules last night and invited two friends over for dinner. We did not hug them when they arrived, we sat at opposite ends of the table, and we washed out hands constantly. It felt a bit like the stiff upper lip members of the Crawley family from Downton Abbey except we didn’t have Carson and Mrs. Hughes taking care of us. Craig cooked an amazing halibut in a blistered tomato sauce. Marci and Ali brought stuffed mushrooms and a lemon tart. Thank goodness grocery stores are still open or we’d all go crazy. Shout-outs to Metropolitan Market, Wine Spot, and Heinens for staying open, stocked, and friendly despite probably working overtime for two straight weeks. (Thanks a lot COVID-19.)
I know it’s really only been one week today that Clevelanders began hunkering down and social distancing, so why does it feel like we’ve been in solitary confinement for a year? Because humans crave social interaction (OK, not ALL humans, but most of us). I’ve never been so excited to see the Amazon delivery van pull up outside as I know I’ll get to talk to another person! (Hey, remember how just last week when you ordered something on Amazon it arrived the next day? Ha, those days are over! Recent order took 6 days.)
All this just reminded me of why I love what I do for a living so much. My business connects those contemplating a relocation to Cleveland/Akron with the people, places, and resources they need to start a new life in our town. Not only do we pair them with two EA staff members who have things in common with them or lived in a city they have lived in previously, but we connect them to locals with similar interests and backgrounds. Often, it’s a child’s shared passion for a sport or hobby. Sometimes they bond over their involvement in a church or synagogue that is similar to the congregation the family is leaving behind. And other times, it’s someone who has lived in the town they are thinking of leaving and can offer honest compare-and-contrast insights.
These are the moments of the EA immersion day in our town where we receive the most positive feedback from candidates and newcomers. At the end of the day, most of us want deep connections with people in our town. We feel special when the owner of the bookstore or the yoga shop greets us by name. We enjoy being invited to someone’s house for dinner on a Saturday night. And we want to be included in book clubs and golf outings. All of these things give us a a sense of belonging. That is what I have missed so much this week.
When people isolate, it helps a disease from spreading. But it also helps spread loneliness, boredom, and anxiety. I’ve never appreciated as much as I do today giving my 90-year-old, nursing home-bound mom a hug, dinner out with friends, and the laughter in the next room as co-workers crack each other up. I understand a bit more the isolation that a newcomer begins to feel in three to six months if they haven’t begun to find social outlets. I know how important our job is to the human pysche. You may have relocated for an amazing job, doing life changing work. But if you go home on Friday and you have no social plans for the weekend, it starts to gnaw at your soul. We are all experiencing a bit of this right now.
I re-read my company’s core values this morning (yep, I’m that bored) and I connected with one that I now consider the most important of the six: People Over Computers: EA is high touch and while we recognize the importance of technology, it rarely trumps personal conversations & connections. AMEN!