Today is June 4, 2020 -

Connecting with the Simple Joys Life has to Offer

By Amy Dworin, Director of Youth Engagement

As an engagement professional, this lock-down has really thrown me for a loop. Engaging teens under the best of circumstances is a challenge! However, even though technology has made this time easier, this experience has inspired me to create opportunities for connection that are more reminiscent of bygone eras than they are of the virtual world in which we are living. I never would have guessed that book club, board games and drive-in movies would be highlights of my calendar in 2020, but the pandemic has really made me appreciate the simple joys life has to offer.

My two favorite things to come out of this quarantine are homemade pasta and the Emtza Book Club. What started at the onset of social distancing to keep kids reading and engaged has morphed into a weekly salon for teens from all over the Midwest. Like most of the programs I run, Book Club has few rules and takes some liberty with tradition. Rather than all reading the same book and discussing it together, we assign a theme for the week and everybody comes ready to share how their weekly reading and experiences relate to the theme. The reading sources vary from books for school, books for fun, news articles, Facebook posts, memes, or tweets. We have discussed themes like fear, gratitude, belief, transitions and expectations. Their insights make me laugh and think, and I look forward to this meeting every week.

I was never much of a board-game player. Perhaps it was the combination of my short attention span, my hyper-competitiveness and the fact that I am not above cheating, or maybe it was because there were so many other options of activities competing for my time that I never seemed to make it to game night. However, with most other activities being temporarily off-limits I gave it a shot and it turns out that games are actually fun! Who knew?! During the first weekend of the lockdown, the Beth El College Kids organized a game of Pictionary using the White Board function on Zoom. Technology has caught up to us and now we can play using Sketchful and House Party. I’ve played virtual games of Code Words with friends and had so much fun that I started playing with some Beth El young professionals as well! From Euchre to Rummikub, virtual game nights have become a socially distant calendar staple for me. If you have a great game to suggest, let me know!

Leave it to teenagers to make drive-in movies – something that I thought ended in the 1950s – cool again! While nearly everybody has access to streaming movies, there is something about sharing the experience that makes it so much more special. A drive-in movie night for teens is currently in the works, thanks to their great ideas and the participation of local restaurant owner Paul McCrae. While I always thought of watching movies and television shows as a solitary activity, I love that the teens see everything as more fun when done together. They’re right, too! Movies are funnier when I can hear my friends laugh along with me and scary movies are much less haunting with another person nearby. Isolation has been hard for all of us, but I love that the teens are constantly thinking of new ways to make it more fun.

The year 2020 is unlike any year I have lived through before, and I imagine that similar sentiments are being echoed by people much older than I am. As much as we are looking toward the future with anxiety, there is much that can be gleaned from the past. I, for one, am enjoying the opportunity to look back to a simpler time and bring some of the quaint wholesome activities into my own home.

Amy Dworin