No Place BUT Home - Part 3: Six Feet

“Blessed are you when men hate you and ostracize you and insult you and scorn your name… be glad in that day.”

You discover your real friends in the time when you are unwanted by all others. You must naturally go to them then and petition them. There’s an old joke that goes like this, “A woman wants to know who loves her more, her boyfriend or her dog. So, she puts them both in the trunk of her car for 3 hours. When she opens the trunk her boyfriend jumps out first and starts to curse and scampers away, terrified. The dog, however, is grateful. It jumps out happily and begins to lick her face.”

Understandably, no one is particularly fond of loving New Yorkers these days in a way we are used to being loved. Certainly no one wants us to escape from New York. We are in our own trunk. While we typically standout in a foreign city because of a preponderantly higher percentage of wealth, ideas and enhanced vocal chords, no city in the USA is keen to give New Yorkers refuge in this brutal hour.

That’s fine. Who can blame them?

When we are well, we will not “return the favor” but instead do the opposite. That is who we are in this community. When New York has flattened the curve and drives it downward – or is the place that finds the cure – you can be sure we will be by your side.

But pariahs we are not. When our Mayor and Governor put out a call for healthcare industry volunteers from around the nation to come here to help us, 21,000 people signed up for the dangerous job within 72 hours! Add to them another 40,000 people inside the State’s cities and towns who also raised their hands and are arriving or going online to provide a range of services. This includes 7,000 professionals providing psychological counseling. And this morning we learned that both Oregon and China (yes, that China) are sending hundreds of ventilators our way.

You really do like us!

The US Navy hospital ship Comfort passes by the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. Attendees of the ICF Summit will recall also passing by the Lady in the Harbor in what seems like another era.


There is no better feeling, especially during an existential crisis, than to feel this. When we cheer for our healthcare workers, we will also cheer for yours and for you. (Perhaps ICF will organize a global inventory of volunteers for future emergencies, inspired by this action.)

That’s what great communities – Intelligent Communities – do. Similarly, unless you have missed the point, it’s why people in Taiwan, Korea and Singapore wear masks: to protect OTHERS and to help them to NOT get ill. It’s the human way. The Golden Rule with a paracord strap. The bonds of community are essential to surviving what hospital workers call “The Beast.” This is not survival of the fittest. The unfit must be protected. The Intelligent Community way is survival of the adapters.

Digging deeper, it gets down to 1.83 meters and the ONLY solution.

Six Feet. That’s the unsocial distance to keep when passing by other human beings. It has become a painful form of avoidance. On our walks I wave to people, and they invariably nod or wave back. Especially doorman, who bravely continue to wear their uniforms and take the Subway home every night. They smile and wave back to any stranger passing. The aching urge to reach out and to say, “Yes, it is awful,” does not need to be said.

Six feet. The distance between your coffin and the earth where you stand or lie with your hopes and delusions. “Six feet under” is American slang meaning, simply, how far in the ground they lower your body. That distance between me and the couple walking their Yorkshire, who I swerve away from, and the distance between both of us and the 594 New Yorkers who left this earth yesterday is closer than any of us imagined the last night we dined out.

From my cousin’s apartment on glorious, sleek Park Avenue, you can look out from a northern facing window and see an enormous, refrigerated reefer-style trailer truck loading corpses from the bay doors of Lennox Hill Hospital.

Six feet. Stay apart so we can be together again, our health experts beg us.

These crude measures – social distancing, wearing masks and binge watching “The Money Heist” – will not match the potency of the only solution: technology. We hold firmly our glimmers of humanity and community. They may shred in proportion to the degree we are misled and our elders dehumanized. But hope will not snap altogether. Big Data and the rush to collaborate on therapeutics and vaccines are the only ways to move that goddamn truck away from the neighborhood.

Soon I will be talking to a colleague from BioReference Laboratories, which provides the tests for New York State’s drive-through test facilities. He is on the board of the New York eHealth Collaborative, a public-private partnership that oversees the NY Health Information Exchange. The group has been central to the state’s Coronavirus response, ensuring patient data is where it needs to be. Our talk will be seen on an upcoming “No Place BUT Home.”

It is 7:00 PM Eastern Time in New York. Time to prepare dinner so we can eat together alone again. But before we do, another ritual has emerged. We hear a now-familiar rolling thunder in the streets. A protest? A riot? Nope. We open our windows and start to scream our lungs out to cheer for the healthcare workers who are trying so hard to keep us from going six feet under.

Other “No Place BUT Home” Blog Posts:

Louis Zacharilla
Co-Founder of the Intelligent Community Forum. Louis Zacharilla helped found the Intelligent Community movement. He is the developer of the Intelligent Community Awards program. He is a frequent keynote speaker and a moderator at conferences and events.

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