Young woman in blue shirt posing with her arm around a boy with a disability in a red shirt. They are at a playground.

From the CEO: Collective Effervescence

In May, I attended an outdoor gathering with my husband’s partners and co-workers when I fully realized how much I had missed the joy that comes with gathering with friends. We have been cautious during the pandemic and limited face-to-face meetings with anyone. Masks, social distancing, limited group sizes, and short times together were the routine for all but our inner circle. Enough people had been vaccinated in that May gathering that masks were shed in that large, ventilated room.

By the end of the evening, I was energized. I had talked with people with whom I had only seen via social media for more than a year. There was a back-and-forth exchange of stories and updates that filled my heart. I did not fully realize what had been missed since the spring of 2020.

I learned earlier this month the name of that feeling: Collective Effervescence. In his New York Times article, author Adam Grant shared that term, first coined by sociologist Emile Durkheim, as “the sense of energy and harmony people feel when they come together in a group around a shared purpose.”  He goes on to write that even introverts are energized with social interaction. Emotions, as with COVID 19, are contagious.

We laugh more when we are in a group than when we are alone. In a crowd, I sing louder with my favorite Jimmy Buffet song than when in the car alone.  My cheers with a homerun are always more exuberant with the hometown crowd. Even yoga practice in a group brings greater peace and inner calm than the one done in private.

That shared exuberance is the desired outcome of the grants from AWS Foundation when we fund the arts, parks and all areas of social enrichment. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that those opportunities for collective effervescence are available to everyone. Since March of 2020, we have all lost that shared purpose. Church services, book clubs, and family gatherings can all happen via zoom, but they lack the shared energy and harmony.

Every day more and more of us are vaccinated. There are many days of warm weather left in the summer. Parks give us room to stretch out and laugh, sing and dance in a group. Reach out to your neighbors, FB friends, and all those who you haven’t seen in the past year. Invite them over for a dose of collective effervescence.