Born out of a desire to contribute to society and create a sense of community while still practicing social distancing amid the threat of the new coronavirus, Hastings-area people are finding creative ways to connect with each other.
Retired Hastings High School English teacher Carla Hedstrom is among people taking to social media to bring people together. She began reading “This Tender Land” by William Kent Krueger on Wednesday — one chapter each night beginning at 9 p.m. — through Facebook Live.
Megan Arrington-Williams with Prairie Interactive, a registered yoga teacher with more than 500 hours of experience, began live streaming yoga classes on Facebook Live from her living room on Tuesday.
“It was something I could offer to the collective that really felt needed,” she said. “It was a quick, knee-jerk, instinct reaction.”
Hedstrom said she was inspired by videos of self-quarantining Italians singing from their balconies
“I thought the way we live here doesn’t lend itself necessarily to doing things like that because we live further apart,” she said. “But I thought everybody I know is on Facebook while this is going on.
“I thought ‘What do I do?’ I read. I can read a good book that would entertain everybody.”
When she taught, Hedstrom read aloud to her high school students as a way to get them hooked into a book.
By Friday afternoon Hedstrom’s Wednesday night reading had about 440 views.
“I was really pleased,” she said Thursday. “What will be interesting is to see how many come back. I had a lot of positive, ‘Oh this is really nice.’ ”
After finishing chapter 2 on Thursday, Hedstrom wrote on Facebook she had listeners in Hawaii and Norway.
Hedstrom said former students who live continents apart have been able to connect while listening to her read.
“I thought, ‘Oh, that’s pretty cool,’ ” she said. “I always said one of my talents is bringing people together. This is just another way to bring people together.”
“This Tender Land,” which has more than 60 chapters, appealed to Hedstrom for a public reading for a few reasons.
“I didn’t want to have anything too racy because you don’t know who is going to listen,” she said. “And I wanted something where at the end you were going to feel good. There are a lot of post-apocalyptic out there that I’ve read but really I don’t want to go there or books about suffering and loneliness and all that kind of stuff. This one has great characters that are very memorable. Very cool relationships are formed along the way. I always like books where people who aren’t family end up kind of creating family. This is what happens in this novel too.”
Arrington-Williams said there was an outstanding turnout with 45 students who stayed for the entire yoga class, including people from throughout the country.
She promotes the classes as “connection over isolation.”
She plans to offer classes when she has spare time as well as her scheduled classes. For instance, Arrington-Williams typically teaches a 5:30 p.m. Thursday yoga class at Enlightened Athlete in downtown Hastings. So she live streamed a class at that time from home.
She plans to live stream a class 1 p.m. on Sunday when she normally would teach yoga at the First Street Brewing Co., where she is the director of operations and marketing.
The yoga classes are streaming through Facebook Live, which notifies people in the Facebook group of planned classes. Some of the classes Arrington-Williams teaches are free; on others she asks for a small contribution through Venmo.
“Teaching yoga does take quite a bit of work,” she said. “There’s a lot of planning that goes into each class. It’s not something I just throw together.”
The classes give participants an opportunity to exercise.
“It’s a great opportunity to get the body moving and also focusing a lot on calming the nervous system,” she said. “That’s what a lot of my current classes will be offering, how to calm down in this time that feels extremely stressful for a lot of folks.”