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Engaging in social distancing? You can still reach out and touch someone's heart.

As we all should do during this coronavirus crisis and beyond, I called an older friend to see if she needed help.

By the time I hung up five minutes later, she'd helped me more than I could've possibly helped her: our conversation propelled me off the couch and outside for a three-mile walk - and she didn't even have to yell at me like that scary, over-caffeinated lady in those Peloton commercials.

When I called Miss Edna last week - I won't use her last name because she's 88, lives alone, and the coronavirus isn't the only danger older people have to worry about - she sounded subdued, a big change from her usual ebullient self.

No, she assured me, she didn't need anything: she was well-stocked but would call if things changed. She's so independent that I know she won't, so I'll call to check again in a day or two.

She admitted to being a bit blue because she hadn't been able to make it to the gym - the GYM - which was now closed.

Part of the reason for her ability to continue her 60-plus-year career as an educator - she stopped substitute teaching just last year - is, no doubt, because she works out consistently. She goes two to three times a week, she said, and plans to resume that regimen when the current crisis abates.

Did she, like some of us, use the gym's closing as an excuse to curtail her workouts, to sit back, meld into the couch and eat Bon Bons while watching Oprah or Judge Judy?

Negative. She explained that she has still been getting in her workouts by improvising, but misses the camaraderie of her regular group of octogenarian workout warriors.

Exercise now consists of walking to and from the mailbox, doing pushups and using canned goods for weightlifting, she said.

Genius. Until talking to her, I'd been lifting cans, too, but only to open them and pour the contents into a pan. Now, I'm eschewing cans - except the ones containing Vienna sausages and potted meat: hey, nobody's perfect - and buying fresh veggies and fruit. (The shelves were empty of Viennas - except one lone can of chicken Viennas: bleccchhh - on subsequent visits.)

In a world where the news has been overwhelmingly distressing lately, there have been glimmers of man's humanity to man. Did you see the story of the two college students who bought up $5,000 worth of toilet paper - and then gave it away?

The Washington Post recently ran a story about how, from Italy to Columbus, Ohio, people are serenading the sick and shut-ins - or just the shut-ins - from a safe distance.

Even before most of us had ever heard the term coronavirus or Covid-19, Michael Hoke, my pal in High Point, was bringing joy to his older neighbors with his Saturday soul serenades from his front porch.

Hoke is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam. I call him The General, although he answers to "Gomer" and "Junior Walker Jr." and his service to his fellow man and woman didn't end when he got back to the world: he is a former investigative officer for Rex Hospital, specializing in domestic violence. He has been telling me about his Saturday morning trumpet treats - with his Rat Terrier, Monkey, sitting in - for years.

"What Does It Take (To Win Your Love For Me) is a crowd-pleaser," he said, referencing Junior Walker's 1969 classic. "Lou Rawls is also a favorite of the nabes."

If there's a moral to this story, it's that we should all seek to help our nabes, and not just in times like this. Think about it hard enough, and I'll bet you can find something to bring a smile to someone's face, even if you can't blow blow blow like Junior Walker - or even Junior Walker Jr.

In the immortal words of Ben Franklin "We'll all hang together - or there won't be any Vienna Sausages left for anybody."




Meet Barry Saunders

For over 20 years, Barry was a columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He also wrote for other publications, such as the Atlanta Constitution and the Richmond County Daily Journal. Often described as powerfully honest and illustratively funny, Barry's writing is both loved and hated by readers- sometimes simultaneously.  


Want more? Get your own copy of one of Barry's published books featuring reader favorites (and not so favorites) from his years writing columns for The News & Observer. Titled "Do Unto Others...And then Run" and "...And The Horse You Rode In On Saunders!", they're full of guaranteed entertainment. 


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