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How we’re looking out for one another

This essay, on the act of passing each other by, is part of the Boston Book Festival’s At Home Boston community writing project

Chris Kelly's dog, Buddy
Chris Kelly's dog, Buddy

My son and I were walking our dog when we saw someone walking toward us on the same side of the street. The person was wearing a long coat, a baseball hat, and over the bottom half of their face, a bandanna.

“Let’s cross,” I said, steering us to the other side of the empty street. As we passed, the person called out. “Hi! Windy day, huh?” “Yes!” I agreed as we walked past. A block further, my brain connected the voice and the covered-up form with our neighbor. Not only had we crossed the street to avoid her, but we’d barely acknowledged her greeting.

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Often, we walk our dog another route, past a home built in the 1600s. It’s been there through wars and assassinations, the Great Depression, 9/11, hurricanes, and blizzards. So many different events with one thing in common: people gathering to support each other through them. But now, we can’t gather, and ‘social distancing’ means that when we see someone approaching, we cross the street or trespass someone’s yard or dart into traffic; anything to avoid contact.

Today, hurriedly moving away is a way to take care of one another.

Chris Kelly submitted this short essay to the Boston Book Festival’s At Home Boston community writing project. Send your essay about life during COVID 19 through June 30 via bostonbookfest.org. Some essays will be published on the the festival’s blog and some will appear in the Boston Globe.