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Touchless Part II: Travelling during COVID & Creating Connections

I usually travel a lot…that was pre-COVID.  Enterprise4Good has operations in many diverse locations within Canada plus several community development projects around the world.  The secret sauce of our organization is that we have become good at creating “Connection”.  Connection automatically creates a Gestaltic power that is greater than the sum of the people parts. 

I’ve been blessed to meet a lot of people in my life and a blessing it has been indeed. For me, connecting with someone new is not only a thrill, but also an opportunity to learn something new.  I’m insatiably curious!  What I learn from others constantly imbues healthy respect for the views of others and humbling realization on how little I actually “know”.  It imbues a realization that the vista of life has so much more to offer than the fragile picture the cocktail of my human frailties, beliefs, biases, opinions, glossed over prejudices and intolerance that my own hairline crack view of life provides.  As I meet new people and learn from them, the crack widens.

When meeting new people, invariably I’m asked where I live.  My standard humorous reply is to reply somewhat accurately “in an airport and hotel”.  On average I do between 100 to 120 flights per year…again pre-COVID.  Many of those flights were extremely long haul because Enterprise4Good’s international projects are typically in Africa, Asia, or South America.

Thus I’m no stranger to airports and hotels, sometimes accommodations often no more than rustic guest houses in remote villages…or an open air hammock strung between the trees.  Just me and the spiders!

Recently I’m coming into a travel “COVID Thaw” after almost 8 months stuck at home.  I’ve started flying again.  My how things have changed!!  Touchless processes everywhere.  How you get a room at a hotel or get a meal at a restaurant.  The list is endless!!  How you check-in at the airport…how your baggage is handled…how you go through security…how you get your coffee once inside…how you’re onboarded…how you are treated on the plane.  Woe betide you if you slip your mask off for a second to take a drink!!!  Flight attendants are on you like wasps protecting their nest.  Intolerance is everywhere if anyone breaks with what someone else thinks they are supposed to do.  Of course there is the other side of the rebellious intolerance of those who chafe at being required to wear a mask, social distance or self-quarantine.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m firm in my opinion that all these new procedures and processes are necessary to stamp out this pandemic organism, an organism that has proven to be a very effective hitchhiker…a hitchhiker that stubbornly stays waiting by the side of the road for their next ride no matter how hard we try to clear the road.

But I’m certain, get rid of it we will…eventually.

My worry is how much of all this sticks around after COVID ultimately leaves us.

Not so much the processes themselves, but the intolerance that they breed and the fracturing of human connection.

Intolerance is an unfortunate by-product of any systemic measures designed to intensely control behaviour to a prescribed norm. 

In my world as the CEO of a charity, I worry about how things will turn out for the vulnerable in our midst. After the acute phase of the COVID phenomenon passes and whatever residue remains, how tolerant will we be of those wonderful, valuable, special needs people that were already on the fringes of our society pre-COVID?   How tolerant will we be of a family of a child with Autism that won’t keep their mask on?  How tolerant of a senior with Dementia that gets confused and won’t follow the arrows?

The list of people with special needs is long.  Do they become even more disenfranchised from community?  Never mind how persons with special needs will be viewed, how will we all view each other?  Will it be through the lens of coming together toward a common purpose or intolerance?

I hope I’m wrong, but I fear it will often be the latter. 

In my view, intolerance evaporates connection.  This unfortunately focuses our attention on the differences that separate us, rather than on the commonalities we share that keep us together.

This leads us to polarity, biases, prejudices, constant argument, and inevitably to the gradual destruction of community connection that we so desperately need in these changing, uncertain times. The hairline crack becomes even smaller!

As we wait for a COVID vaccine, what is the vaccine for the potential of intolerance?  Stay tuned for Part III.