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This is the perfect time to help out others

New London — We are suddenly left pondering the mutually exclusive concepts of “togetherness” and “social distancing.” Hard to explain, right? Intellectually, we know that social distancing is a must to slow the spread of the coronavirus, yet emotionally, we understand that the best way we’re going to survive this is together.

So how does one navigate such a paradoxical road?

Look to our favorite gin mills, of course.

No, really. They have shown us in recent days the necessity of being there for each other even if we’re not necessarily next to each other.

We begin with George Gianakos, co-proprietor of Mr. G’s in New London with his brother, Peter. Mr. G’s: The 50-plus year landmark where many of us go to meet, greet, eat and yell at the television during a game. G’s is part of every sporting event around here. You are either there before the game, after or both.

Gianakos had the idea of donating lunch to the folks working tirelessly at the outdoor specimen testing station at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, helping facilitate testing for the coronavirus. George, always part of the floor show at G’s with his brother, followed specific instructions Thursday as to where he could drop the food without coming into contact with others.

“We’re all in this together,” Gianakos said after his mission. “We all want to help, but sometimes, there’s not a lot we can do. We just wanted to show those workers how much we respect what they’re doing and that they’re not forgotten.”

Consider that Gianakos and other restaurateurs really can’t afford to give anything away now, given that the virus is responsible for shutting down dining rooms and bar areas. G’s did it anyway.

Gianakos said he has not laid off any staff, but reduced hours for them. Difficult times. But here we learn all over again how character emerges from crisis.

“Some of our employees have donated hours to others,” he said. “In other words, if they have income from another family member or don’t need the money as badly, they’ve given their hours to someone else who does.”

If that doesn’t make you a little verklempt, you might want to reboot. It’s the embodiment of self-sacrifice, esprit de corps and the ultimate illustration of true togetherness.

A few miles up the road from G’s sits Filomena’s, the central artery of Waterford, where photos hang in the bar of several teams and kids who have contributed to the decade-long Waterford Sports Revolution. In the middle of it all: owner Mike Buscetto, who only knows (and helps) everybody.

Buscetto spoke with a nursing friend of his at Lawrence + Memorial on Wednesday, mindful that their work does not allow for social distancing. It is truly a tough job, and someone’s got to do it. And so Buscetto will donate lunch Monday to five different departments.

“They’re the real heroes,” Buscetto said. “They can’t be at home with their families. Just to let them know we are thinking about them and the work they’re doing.”

Neither Gianakos nor Buscetto expect a quid pro quo here. They said separately Thursday they both remain grateful their businesses have been successful over the years. But their selflessness — and frankly, the example they’re setting for us all — ought to count for something.

So by all means — if you have the means — continue to support them (and whatever other favorite haunts you might have) with takeout. And maybe mimic the actions of the gang at Mr. G’s who truly understand the concept of friends in need.

This social distancing is not easy, especially for us extroverts who thrive on social interaction. Plus, places like G’s and Filomena’s are good for my job. They sustain Dan Jenkins' old line about how “more good story ideas come out of bars than seminars.” Trust me: I find out many news tips in that “loose lips sink ships” sort of way.

Can’t wait to get back to all my people very soon. Meantime, let’s try to learn a lesson from all of them. Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Plenty of people need our help. Let’s keep reaching out.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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