Last week Meg told me about an app called "My Talking Pet" which allows you to upload a photo of your pet and then speak into your phone and the app makes your pet's mouth move like it's talking. Obviously I immediately downloaded this app and paid the $1,600 monthly service fee for this and started using it nonstop.

Well on Friday morning Meg texted me and Skylar "We should do the Imagine video but with our dogs."

In case you've been avoiding the internet, which, if so, what have you even been doing? But in the event that you have not seen this yet, last week 20-something celebrities released truly the cringiest video on the entire internet of each of them taking turns earnestly singing a line of John Lenon's Imagine.

They made it as a gift for us--something to help bring us all together during this trying time. Well, it worked. Because everyone got unified around mocking the video relentlessly.

So when Meg suggested we use My Talking Pet to dub over the mostly off-key vocal performances to short clips of our friends' pets, we obviously had to cancel all of our responsibilities for the day and make this happen.

We started gathering photos of pets who wanted to participate in our imagine project. Meg and I used the sound from the celebrity video to make the individual clips. Then Skylar, who is going to be someone's doctor someday, used his video editing skills to put it all together. And we are honestly so proud of the result:

Truly, it was a nice distraction. Like probably many of you, I had a hard time keeping my anxiety at bay last week. This social distancing and uncertainty is not the hardest thing I've ever gone through--not by a long shot--but it has been challenging and a little scary.

I've been thinking a lot about how I want to write about this experience on Stranger. Obviously this is really crazy time, and I want to document what this period feels and looks like. But I also feel some responsibility not to add to the doomsday/sky-is-falling of it all. There's plenty of that sort of meltdown happening all over the internet already.

Years ago when I was serving my Mormon mission in Ukraine I met this elderly woman who was a teenager during the Ukrainian hunger famine/genocide in the early 1930s. It has been estimated that up to ten million people starved to death or were shot by Stalin's forces over about a two-year period. That was around one-fourth of Ukraine's population.

I talked with this woman for a while about what that was like to live through. She shared some truly horrific accounts of what her family had to do to survive.

I've thought about something she said probably nearly on a weekly basis in the 16 years since I heard it. Paraphrasing, it was something like: "When a bad thing is happening, everyone has to decide what role they're going to play--what kind of person they are going to be. I was a young girl, and I decided I was going to be a comfort to my friends and family when they needed it."

She said she refused to be a pessimist because that wasn't helpful to anyone. She used her time and efforts cheering people up and reminding them of all the good around them. Once that crisis ended, she spent the rest of her life proud and happy that that's how she had chosen to be during that time.

I've been thinking about that, and how if a girl could have had that kind of attitude during what must have been truly one of the most horrific mass tragedies in human history, I can surely do the same during a time when I've been asked to stay home for a while and knit in my pjs.

There will be plenty of places for us to go on the internet to read anxiety-inducing news, but I've decided I want Stranger to be a place for us to come and feel at peace together. Our little Stranger community is already trained in this--I think we owe it to each other to keep being that for each other.

When this has passed--and it will--I want us to be proud of the fact that we kept a record in real time of the role we decided to play. One where we chose to be a comfort to our friends and family and a bunch of Strangers on the internet.

To start it off, I would love to have us share with one another what good we have seen come out of this, or what good we expect to come out of this. In what ways is this experience making the world for you or for anyone a better place?

For me, I think I'm going to remember this as a time I connected more with my family. I've already seen my neighborhood come together more--we're calling and texting one another in a way we never have before, just to see how everyone is doing. I feel like this experience is helping me take a pause and a breath and think about what matters most to me, what I can live without, and what kind of person I want to be.

Please share your positive thoughts as well. Tell us what good you have seen from this or expect to see.

And while you think about that, please also enjoy a new episode of Strangerville:

This time in Strangerville, Meg and Eli are practicing social distancing. And a woman takes the Strangerville Live stage to tell the story of her first real kiss.


First Kiss, by Mara Lefler

Production by Eli McCann & Meg Walter

~It Just Gets Stranger