The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a common theme in the way we go about our business - the inbuilt desire we all have for relationships with one another. BRIAN WIGHTMAN tells the stories of three Tasmanians adapting.
Part 1 - The Church Service
For Riverside Olympic Football Club premiership goalkeeper and Hobart's St John's Presbyterian Church Minister Alistair Bain, the way he cared for his people had to change.
Saving penalties has been substituted for saving the community spirit of his congregation who are used to spending face-to-face time with one another every week.
Reverend Bain said he is proud of his parishioners and their ability to adapt to the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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"I feel like someone who is self-employed, in that I can work from home. But I am also used to having one-on one-meetings with up to 12 different people per week," he said.
"Those meetings are in people's homes, or my home, or in cafes, or pubs. They are now impossible, and I am finding myself on the phone a lot more." Working with two colleagues and a congregation upwards of 150 each Sunday, Rev. Bain said finding new ways of planning and delivering Sunday gatherings was established quickly following the closure of places of worship.
With a focus on delivering a service for the whole community and maintaining the spirit of helping one another through difficult times, St Johns' didn't hesitate.
"We are a community of faith which exists to help one another, and the communities we live and work in. This requires contact with people," she said. The church was swift to embrace technology to maintain continuity of Sunday services. Facebook, Mailchimp, Skype, YouTube, and Zoom have all assisted Rev. Bain to deliver his message and keep his congregation connected.
"Now that we are not permitted to meet, I am live streaming those gatherings using YouTube. We had to launch our own YouTube channel and appoint a moderator who oversees the stream. Thankfully we already had everything we needed to record the stream, and we have some very savvy IT experts in our congregation who have been very keen to help", he said. Technology has provided a solution for St Johns Church with the live stream viewed around the world.
And while technology doesn't replace the need for human contact nor assist those without access to devices, it has the potential to strengthen relationships across the church. "In a paradoxical kind of way, and ways I did not expect, this enforced isolation may end up making us more thoughtful about one another," Rev. Bain said.
Part 2 - The Birthday Party
What does an innovative mum do when her daughter's 12th birthday falls during the COVID-19 pandemic? She holds a virtual birthday party of course!
For Emily Titmus, the challenge of delivering on a commitment while ensuring the rules of physical distancing were maintained was a challenge that she was ready to overcome. "No-one likes to disappoint their kids. We had planned a birthday party for Friday evening, eight little friends getting together for an hour over pizza and some cake," she said.
"All week I was being asked, 'Will I still get to have my birthday party mummy?' But by late Thursday night, we made the call to cancel and I texted the girls' mums to let them know." Mrs Titmus' nigh on 12-year-old daughter was understanding about making the commonsense decision to disappoint.
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"It's okay mum, I get it, I really do..." Miss Titmus, 11, said but the disappointment and the mama-guilt was still there, which made Mrs Titmus quickly shift to solution mode to recover ground.
Zoom video conferencing swiftly became the birthday party platform of choice.
"The mums downloaded the app. I then scheduled the meeting ready for the 6pm surprise party. At a few minutes before, I started the meeting and the girls and their mums started to join the meeting. I knocked on my daughter's bedroom door and said, 'SURPRISE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! YOUR FRIENDS ARE HERE ONLINE TO CELEBRATE WITH YOU!'" Mrs Titmus said.
The positive reaction from families was immediate. Mrs Titmus recalled, "I received responses, saying the girls loved it because it was all very new and exciting".
Friends appreciated the innovation and willingness to connect a group of youngsters desperate for the daily interactions that the COVID-19 pandemic had interrupted.
Mrs Titmus said the trick to success was not planning too much nor being over the top. It was about simplicity, friendship, and kindness. If the crisis has taught us anything, it is the importance of connection and community. Simple things, like children's birthday parties, are not about consumerism, they are about children coming together in friendship.
"As it was such a last-minute thing, we didn't go over the top. Keeping it a surprise was enough. It was more about our daughter feeling like she was connected, remembered, thought of, loved, and not forgotten about on her special day. And it really did exactly that with no bells and whistles required." Mrs Titmus said.
Part 3 - The Personal Training
There is an enthusiasm that personal trainer Cory Hearn brings to his work each day which most of us would find exhausting.
And that's before the session even begins.
Mr Hearn began full-time as a personal trainer when the economic downturn of 2011 terminated his recruitment to Tasmania Police. In response, he developed a thriving business with clients attending personalised and individual training sessions out of his gym on Wellington Street, Launceston. But then, with one announcement, it all changed.
"There is no part of my workday that has remained the same. Everything I have learned to love over the past 10 years - the early mornings, eight or so hours of getting to spend one-on-one time with people, and finishing the day with a couple of large group training sessions have been replaced with no specific start and end times, lots of time on my own, and a few training sessions conducted online," he said with just a hint of disappointment.
Mr Hearn has hesitated to introduce personal training in groups of 10 outside even though it is permitted under the Prime Minister's most recent instructions.
Instead, Mr Hearn and his fellow personal trainers, his wife Emma, and Damon Upton-Greer, have resorted to already established modes of tailored training.
"We were very fortunate because we have been writing 'at home' programs for a very long time now, so adjusting to training without equipment was not the hard part," he said.
Transitioning to online training would have been next to impossible for us without the help of some very tech-savvy clients of ours. We started putting an online training plan together when we saw what was happening in China so, when the seriousness of the situation hit Australia, we were ready to hit the ground running immediately."
The personal trainers have employed FaceTime to continue training clients.
They have also rented equipment, which is dropped off door to door, implemented nutrition programs and simply encouraged everyone to keep moving.
Mr Hearn is strident in his views that a continued focus on personal health and well-being is essential.
With the support of loyal and motivated clients, he has switched his fervour for face-to-face sessions to the challenge of saving a well-established small business.
"If this crisis has brought anything positive to us, it is that we see just how much community support we have and how quickly we can bring new ideas to action. Keep your mind and body healthy, drink lots of water, eat as well as you can, we were made to move." Mr Hearn said.
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