Together with the whole world, I am “holding my breath” as humankind faces major, life-interrupting uncertainty. If people had told me in September that the academy where I teach would close its doors, let alone all the schools in New York and indeed nationwide, I would thought they were out of their minds. It seems that confusion reigns as governments around the world grapple with how to respond in the face of this pandemic.
As social distancing becomes the norm, I think a lot about those affected the most. The old, the sick, and also the poor are the most vulnerable, and as the global death toll rises, there likely will be losses close to home. Then I think of the single mom whose children are suddenly home from school and who has to choose between working to provide food for her family and staying home to care for her kids. I know a local care facility that is struggling to look after its 130 elderly residents as workers are unable to come to work, either because they lack childcare or for fear of contracting COVID-19.
Elderly friends I know in Kingston, New York, try to shop for essentials only to find empty shelves. The news shows queues at 5:30 a.m. outside Walmart. There are reports of hoarding and shouting matches. As the stock market collapsed in recent days, a man jumped off a bridge over the Hudson River amid the wailing of ambulance sirens. Will COVID-19 unravel and destroy the very fabric of society as we know it?
Amid the chaos and fear, I discovered in the news not one but two articles that gave me great hope!
Have you ever heard of “caremongering”? The word was coined a few days ago in Canada. Now a caremongering movement, started by one individual in Toronto, is growing rapidly into a “pandemic of deeds of kindness” targeting the most vulnerable. Its advocates intend to serve as the antidote to rampant scaremongering:
More than 35 Facebook groups have been set up in 72 hours to serve communities in places including Ottawa, Halifax and Annapolis County in Nova Scotia, with more than 30,000 members between them. People are joining the groups to offer help to others within their communities, particularly those who are more at risk of health complications related to coronavirus.
The second article that grabbed my attention also featured people helping others. Joining the “caremongerers” are college student “shopping angels”! Jayde Powell, a premed student, decided it was time to do something. Now Powell and a “growing army of volunteers” deliver free groceries to those who can’t get out shopping themselves.
So the pandemic has led to acts of kindness around the world. May there be a snowball effect!
In my own community, I suddenly appreciate even more those I know well but have often taken for granted. I call people further away to offer them encouragement and support. Together we pray and look to God for help. May love and compassion grow in this difficult time, and instead of being divided, may people be drawn together. May selfless deeds of love to neighbor become our way.