I’ve seen dozens of article headlines about what we as a civilization are missing out on this past year due to COVID-19. Human touch, human interaction, exercise, comfort, conflict resolution, you name it. 

As I type this, though, I’m thinking about one particular need: human proximity. I have a YouTube video open on my laptop playing an hour long loop of background noise from a coffee shop. People are talking, drinks are mixing, freezer doors are closing, chairs are scooting. And somehow this is all wonderful. 

The satisfaction derived from this background noise has nothing to do with the need for direct interaction and everything to do with knowing I am not alone.

Ever since I was a child, I have taken comfort in hearing the sounds of people talking and doing things nearby. I remember being sent to my room for misbehaving at dinner, and listening by the door to the sounds of people talking and the clinking of dinnerware on the table. 

I didn’t need to participate to feel comforted. I just needed to hear and know they were there. 

If we ever go to a party together, you will notice me somewhere on the periphery, trying my hardest not to participate in the random conversations people generate when they bump into each other in a social gathering. I’ll be there, not actively participating, but not complaining. 

I love people. I love that they exist. I love that they are near. I don’t always want to talk to interact, but I enjoy the sound of humanity in the throes of everyday activity. 

I don’t know many people who share the enjoyment of human proximity without interaction. I want to hear from you if this resonates.

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