Arm’s Length: Acts of Love in the Covid Era

Right now, one of the ways we take care of each other is by keeping six feet apart. Some people call it “safe six.” How do we figure out what is “safe six”?

There are different ways to figure this out. Like, now, if you go to a store, or an outside window where they are selling ice cream, there are marks on the ground helping us keep six feet away from the other person in line. Have you seen any markings like that where you have been?

Can you think of other ways to figure out safe six?

Here’s one way that involves moving a part of our body: For grown-ups, one easy way is to stretch out one arm like this....

...and for the other person to stretch out their arm the same way

...and to have both people’s fingers ALMOST touch but not quite.

And that’s six feet. Maybe a little more. Maybe a little less.

It’s still important to wear a mask, especially if you are inside and especially if that other person is not in your pod. And if you're outside, it’s good for those two people to check in with each other about what each feels safe with, and do that.

You might be asking: What about people who are younger, or smaller, or both, whose arms are not about three feet long? How do they figure out their “safe six”?

I think they can do the same thing plus one extra step. One person reaches out their arm. The other person reaches out their arm. Their fingers almost touch but don’t. AND each of them jumps one jump away from the other person. Do you think that would work?

[optional: another way to figure out how to establish a safe six, you can show images from this article of children in China who returned to school.]

I really like the idea of using the length of our arms as a way to keep each other safe. The reason I like this idea is because it reminds me of a true story a friend of mine told me about giant sea turtles.

A baby turtle on a beach, with the ocean and two blurred humans in the background.

There are all kinds of giant sea turtles. One is the leatherback, because instead of a hard

shell, it has one that is like leather—it is soft and flexible. The leatherback turtle can live to be 125 years old! Older than humans can live!

From the tip of their nose to their tail they can be as tall as human adults—six feet! And the span of their two front flippers is even longer: up to 8 or 9 feet! Their back flippers are a little shorter, but not much. They say the length of their back flippers are about the same length as an adult human’s arm.

Mama leatherback turtles come out of the ocean at night, climbing up on the sand. They make a nest by digging a hole with their back flippers. There they lay their eggs, then cover the hole back up and disguise it. There can be between 50 and 150 eggs! The mama then goes back to the ocean and never sees her hatchlings again.

Sometimes, there are some people who try to steal the eggs. Some people like to eat the eggs as a special treat and will pay lots of money for them. It’s not right to do that, because there are not many leatherback turtles on the planet.

There are other people who protect the eggs. These protectors watch when the mamas come ashore and sit with them while they are laying their eggs. The mama turtles don’t mind this at all, because they are focusing on their bodies laying the eggs. The protectors take the eggs from the hole before the mama turtle covers the whole with sand. They bring the eggs to a nearby spot inside a guarded fence, so no one can steal the eggs.

Thai Muang Marine National Park Rangers digging up leatherback turtle eggs from the beach and replacing turtle eggs to safer hatchery.

There, the protectors use their arm, just like the mama turtle uses her back flipper, to dig a hole. Then they put the eggs there, where the eggs are safe until they hatch. Pretty cool, huh?

I love that the protectors use a part of their body—their arm—like the mama leatherback uses a part of her body—her back flipper—to care of the babies and to protect all the future leatherback turtles. It reminds me that we are connected to all living things, to all sentient beings, and that we have important things in common with other creatures. It reminds me of our 7th principle in Unitarian Universalism: respect and reverence for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

It also reminds me of what we do when we use our arms to figure out what our ‘safe six’ is. And that’s pretty cool, too.

Thank you for listening to my story.

Rev. Karen's tips: If you're video recording this story, you can have a clip of an adult stretching out their arm in one direction, then another clip of a different adult stretching out their arm in the other direction, so that when you edit it, it looks like they are stretching towards each other. It would be good to find images of a leatherback turtle (quite distinct from other sea turtles) and, even better, of one laying eggs. Look to Flickr for possible images that can be used without infringing on copyright. You can use this educational video to educate yourself and to provide as follow-up communication.