I attended a social distancing gathering on July 4th at a friend’s house who has a swimming pool in his backyard. There were five of us and while one person sat in a chair poolside, the rest of us each took a corner of the pool, talking and relaxing. We rotated at intervals so we each had a turn to enjoy the water, the hot tub, the sun, the shade and the chair. It was a relief to be with people I cared about in the midst of so much isolation.

The host of the party offered food and beverages as he put on his mask and served each of us individually. Then, at 7:30, he told us that a member of a sixties rock band lived on the street and had invited us and the rest of the neighbors to come together at 8 PM and sing a spirited version of “God Bless America.” We walked down the street in our masks and headed to the driveway of the musician’s house, acknowledging other people along the way who were headed there, too. The musician provided the music as we all sang together at 8 PM, mostly off key, but our hearts were in it.

The meeting gave me some wonderful and unexpected gifts. As we faced each other and spoke our names, we were focused on the person rather than the face that was covered. No one was wearing makeup. We were all in our sweats and tennies. There were no fancy clothes or shoes. Our hair was mussed from the mask, we couldn’t hug or shake hands and so we connected heart to heart. I felt mine open as I nodded at each person and took a quiet moment to be with him or her as a human being sharing an extraordinary time.

Then there was the song. As we sang about America, it felt more patriotic than watching fireworks, as much as I love them. We weren’t just looking at a show that someone else had arranged. We were singing, forgetting about good and bad voices, connected to the people around us and taking the words into our souls. I marveled at how moved I was to look into someone’s eyes whom I had just met for the first time and probably would never see again. It held great meaning that I was not expecting and I can still feel the sense of awe and unity. It was a new and different kind of celebration that was authentic and deeply emotional. It reminded me that we are capable of feeling great things, no matter how small they appear. In fact it’s the little things that make all the difference and touch us in a huge way. The grocery store clerk wishing me a good day. The pharmacist making sure I have everything I need. A friend who is willing to listen when I’m having a bad day. A family member who is willing to be vulnerable and tell the truth about how she’s feeling.

Nothing is too small to matter when we are meeting heart to heart. When things change (a wise woman in my life reminds me that they always do), as we release the isolation and come together in a more tangible way, I hope we can hold onto the small discoveries that make life a more friendly and compassionate place to be. I hope we can continue meeting heart to heart.

Have you had an experience like that?