My mother must have told me thousands of times to “watch and learn.” I took her advice so much to heart that she once had to chide me for always staring at people when we were out and about. I meant no harm, I was just observing them and taking notes in my mind. I’m fascinated by life and the way people respond to the world around them, so naturally I am obsessed with noticing how folks are reacting to the pandemic.
On the whole I’m pleased with what I see. I have found kindness to be on the rise with each passing day of isolation. Even business phone calls are more friendly and caring than they might have once been. People are genuinely wanting to be pleasant and helpful. Most of us are taking the time to be patient and thankful as well. It’s a nice contrast the the hectic stressful pace that seemed to be the way of life only a few weeks ago.
I ordered a birthday surprise and groceries for my father-in-law earlier this week. The woman who delivered the items picked up on the occasion and included a Happy Birthday balloon with the items. She also took a picture of my father-in-law at his door from a distance and let me and my husband know that seeing him smile had made her day. What she did was a little thing that only took a small bit of extra effort but it meant the world to our family. I learned something in that moment, namely that a bit of kindness goes a long long way.
I’ve had neighbors and students sending me messages to be sure that I am doing well. I cannot begin to express how important those connections have been. The isolation seems to dissolve with a text, a card, a phone call. I feel blessed to have such remarkable people in my life and to enjoy the comforts of technology that allow me to see and hear them. I know that there are people working quietly to insure that my internet and electricity keep operating so that I won’t lose touch with the outside world. They are nameless individuals but I actually think of them and feel so much gratitude for their efforts.
I see members of the healthcare community selflessly and courageously going to work each day. Some of them are members of my family. Others are former neighbors or students that I once taught. I know how afraid they are of becoming sick and being unable to care for the people who come to them. They also worry about infecting their own families and yet they overcome their fears and keep returning for another day of work.
One former student spoke of ending a twelve hour shift at her job in the Houston Medical Center. She was exhausted and ready to get home as quickly as possible when she heard a commotion on the street ahead. She worried that her journey home would somehow be delayed and just as she was feeling a bit irritable she realized that it was a parade of ordinary people cheering her and others who were leaving their shifts. She was moved to tears by their support and understanding of how difficult the work has been. For me that one moment describes all that is best in people during this horrific time.
There are hundreds and hundreds of wonderful stories which teach me once again how good we humans really are. For every bad egg there are a thousand as lovely as the finest one made by Faberge. Humankind has mostly been glorious during this catastrophe teaching me that we may be hurting now, and the future may still be difficult, but we will rise to the occasion. The collective virtue of the people of the world will sustain us.
I have also seen things that bother me but I am hoping that this experience has taught most of us to join together to do what is right and defeat the ugliness that often threatens to overtake us. We have seen how significant family and friendships are. We must cherish those relationships above all things. We have witnessed the importance of each individual within our workforce and never again take them for granted. We have experienced the loving concern of teachers for their students and should demonstrate our thanks and regard. We have realized the need for a strong healthcare system for all people, not just those who can afford it. We have felt how much we miss our faith communities and from henceforth we should embrace them with joy. Appreciation should become the central attribute of our daily lives. We must celebrate the young and the old and emphasize the value of each generation. We depend on each other in ways that have become so clear. We are interconnected with our brothers and sisters from around the globe.
I have learned so much while locked away in my home. The funny thing is that I see the world more clearly now than ever before and I am genuinely pleased to know how wonderful it is.