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Anne Dyer: Reconnecting with old friends has been a pleasure

Zoom chats are helping to keep people connected.
Zoom chats are helping to keep people connected.

On Friday of last week I received an invitation to join a meeting online, by Zoom.

The meeting was of a group of women who, for the most part, I had not seen or spoken to since June 1979.

In the late 1970s we were at university together.

Back then we spent time with each other every day.

We drank a lot of coffee, discussed everything in the world, and made plans for how things could be changed for the better.

Bishop Anne Dyer

We were young and idealistic, hopeful and energetic.

After university our paths diverged, and some of us lost touch with each other.

So it was with some nervousness that I connected to the meeting on Saturday.

Would I recognise these women, how have the years treated us?

We have lived over two-thirds of our lives since we last spoke, would we today have very much in common?

Well the conversation was wonderful.

Each participant was interestingly different, we had done such varied things through the years, made our contributions to society through widely differing occupations.

We remembered the times, so many years ago, which had set us on the paths to becoming the people that we are today – and we were all thankful.

I was so pleased that I had accepted the invitation to join in with this meeting. We intend to keep in touch – I hope we will.

This was not the first time that someone from my far past has got in touch during the coronavirus lockdown.

In the very first week I received a message from someone I had known at my first place of work.

For that person, a memory had risen to the surface and they wanted to get in touch again.

In our correspondence we remembered together something that had been important from long ago that was still shaping the people that we are today.

Lockdown is providing all of us with time to reflect.

We can think about what is happening to us in the challenges that we are facing day by day.

We can wonder what the future will be like, and have opinions on how things need to be better, so that we avoid repeating some of the dreadful consequences of the impact of this virus on our society.

But it also gives us time to review our lives, work out what matters, and wonder why it is that we live the way that we do.

As life becomes simpler, because I am at home and not out and about, it is also becoming quieter.

A lot of the “noise” in my life comes from being very busy.

As the busyness stops, then it becomes easier to see what matters.

Importantly, as my life is quieter and less active, I can see who has mattered most through the years.

Some people who were a very loud presence, who took up a lot of time and energy, had little lasting impact on who I am, it turns out.

Meanwhile others, who might have quietly been there day after day, turn out to be the ones who have shaped my personality and my interests, my values and the way that I live my life.

By appreciating who was a good influence in the past, I am making decisions about what matters into the future.

Clearly I am not alone in thinking backwards as a way of looking forward.

For the most part it has been other people who have been contacting me, through letters, phone calls or Zoom. During this crisis we hear of people being very productive.

From learning new skills through to taking on new studies or hobbies, many people are keeping themselves busy.

This is one way of knowing that these weeks have not been wasted. People might not have been able to go out, but at least they have something to show for this time.

Maybe even more than making or doing something new, is valuing something old, reconnecting with a friend from the past.

This might be just the right time to write a letter, ask for a phone call, or send an invitation to Skype or Zoom.

There will be lots of good reasons why we have drifted away from old friendships, but there is something in the fragility of these present times that enables us to be open and reconnect again.

We might think to ourselves that it has been too many years now, too much will have happened to be able to simply pick things up again.

My experiences during lockdown suggest that I would have been wrong to make this assumption.

Actually, there is great pleasure in remembering, in telling old stories, and knowing what in life has really made the difference.

The Rt Rev Anne Dyer is Episcopalian Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney and Scotland’s first female bishop

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