How Do We Build Community When We Can’t Be Near Each Other? (with No One Left Unhelped and Baltimore Community Mediation Center)

This is the fifth part of a series. Go to Part 1, Part 2Part 3 or Part 4.

It’s been six weeks since I first launched this series. At that time I think some people thought we might be back to normal by now, or close to it. Now it seems the future is more uncertain than ever.

That leaves many of us with no choice but to focus on the present, doing whatever we can to make the best of today. But to the extent that we dare to look toward the future, we may find ourselves imagining something radically different than what we knew before. The idea of “back to normal” is quickly vanishing from many of our minds.

BCMC mural

There will be a toll, for sure. The world is closing in on 200,000 deaths from coronavirus, a figure that’s already difficult to process and is still rising. Economically, the U.S. unemployment rate is over 20 percent. Closer to home, Maryland’s largest employer is beginning pay cuts and layoffs as it expects to lose $375 million this fiscal year. No matter how or when the COVID-19 pandemic ends, it’s not going to be easy to recover from the blows we are taking as a society.

At the same time, moments like this do give us a chance to reassess our priorities. Issues in the community that have had difficulty gaining traction – like homelessness, mobility, digital access, mass incarceration and others – suddenly seem to be getting much more attention. Maybe it shouldn’t have taken a global pandemic, but I do find myself feeling hopeful that we as a society will come out of this experience with a healthier set of priorities than we had before, and a newfound will to put those priorities into action.

Meanwhile, there are still dedicated people in the present working to make Baltimore the best it can be. I talked to Lisa Molock of No One Left Unhelped and the team at Baltimore Community Mediation Center, asking them how we build community when we can’t be near each other. Here’s what they said…

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