Kindness in the time of Covid

A few days ago I read an article in the NY Times on “What our new normal will feel like” by Max Fisher: “The greatest psychological shift amid widespread crisis may be toward what is termed “prosocial behavior” — checking in on neighbors, caring for the needy, cooking for friends. Early humans, trapped in a hostile environment, thrived when they cooperated, typically in groups of a few hundred. Now, as we are once again besieged by nature and isolated into small communities, our survival instincts are re-emerging. During the SARS epidemic, Dr. Sim said, people looked out for one another in ways they might not have done before. They are doing so again now, even in Singapore, a city known for capitalist striving and competition.” (Max Fisher, NY Times, April 21, 2020).

Yes, acts of kindness have been spotlighted across the globe. The news media is filled with stories of people and communities reaching out to help, volunteer, donate, and offer any assistance they are able to. New Yorkers too have been doing what they do best - face difficult times by lending fully their hands, hearts, and minds to help build bridges of support.

The other day I asked my students to focus on positive energy and share any acts of kindness they had personally experienced or observed during these days of Covid 19. Here are but a few examples:

Volunteers in Caroline's neighborhood are helping the elderly and disabled to buy groceries and get medication.

Carol's niece who is a nurse is doing the grocery shopping for Carol and her family. When Carol's dog died, someone came to her home from another borough to pick the dog up, handle the cremation, and send the ashes back to the family.

Shannon has noticed that people are being kinder to each other in public spaces, letting those who are elderly or who have only a few items in their cart get ahead of them in line.

Dee was in a grocery store and didn't have a bag. The cashier got her a box, packed the box and put it in a cart so she could take it out to the car. Another time Dee went to the laundromat where an employee gave her a free mask and wouldn't accept payment for it.

When Mercy went to pay after shopping at a supermarket the cashier observed that she was stressed and spoke to her with much kindness, asking "How are you? Are you okay? It's okay, breathe, take your time!"

Walter said that residents in his building created a WhatsApp group that supports each other, and informs each other when a package is delivered for them in the building.

Larita shared that she and her coworkers are praying everyday on Zoom for another coworker who is sick. 

Maria’s sister cooks and donates meals to the military.

And then there are the instances we have been reading about everyday: parents forming support groups for homeschooling; restaurants ordering food for healthcare workers; the 7:00pm cheering for front-line workers all around the world; volunteers packing lunch bags for the homeless and providing hand sanitizer; hotels providing rooms for the homeless; people offering free classes, read-alouds, and other performances; libraries offering books to read online for free...

Hopefully, once the worst is over, we as a community, a city, a country, and the world can continue to keep our sights on those spaces deep within us from which such kindness emanates. Human nature is compassionate in its essence, and we can put human well-being above personal profit despite those who might urge otherwise. Let's do our best to remember our goodness during this devastating and dangerous time.

Kindness cannot be killed by the corona's sharp spikes. This is our opportunity to teach children not just good hygiene, but to teach them to value the compassion, kindness and empathy that lives within them.