This coronavirus pandemic is causing a lot of misery with kids stuck at home with online school, parents missing work that puts food on the table, companies closing. And there’s nothing left to watch on television.
But amidst the gloom are bright spots of kindness. Neighbors you haven’t spoken with in months are saying hello. You let someone go ahead of you in line at the grocery store. Manners seem to be back everywhere except in Washington, D.C.
“I’m hearing people are making it and not complaining,” said Charleston author Nathalie Dupree. “Everyone is being very kind to us, bringing us food, making deliveries. The only complaints I hear are about other people not being respectful of guidelines when in stores.”
The Rev. Kylon Middleton, senior pastor at Mount Zion AME Church in Charleston, noticed similar graciousness as he’s been talking with people.
“I am noticing that people are kinder and more intentional,” he said. “As I walk in my neighborhood, either early morning or later in the day, I encounter folks who are being more intentional about speaking and acknowledging the presence of others, respectfully at a distance, than before the pandemic.
“Even from afar, I see the warmth and hope in the eyes of those with whom I meet. I see a resiliency of spirit that continues to persevere amidst the uncertainty of our times. I see generosity and consideration in something as subtle as negotiating space on a sidewalk or being mindful at the grocery store to only buy what’s needed so that someone else and their family can have access to basic items.”
Sumter Mayor Joe McElveen says the virus is challenging everyone to be better.
“For instance, I may be a hardliner who thinks that ‘stay at home’ is for pansies and that I will not die from COVID-19; but I also have a mother, sister, wife or daughter whom I do no not wish to kill or even infect,” he observed. “Do I really enjoy sitting with 70,000 people at a sporting event; or am I kind of liking time around the house with my family? Lots of things we held as indispensable are turning out not to be so important after all.”
State Rep. Chandra Dillard (D, Greenville) says the pandemic is causing South Carolinians to be more purposeful about their time with family members.
“My Facebook is full of examples of parents dancing with their kids (and) sharing generational music and simply talking,” she said. “Communities have become innovative and collaborative about how to serve our most vulnerable populations. This has gotten organizations out of their silos and combining resources.”
Perhaps what’s most interesting is how all of this kindness seems to be organically contagious — that people are doing it on their own, despite spats about politics and nonsense from state and national leaders.
The recent issue of the Charleston City Paper highlighted nine stories of kindness that included a Mt. Pleasant mom and daughter who posted a Joke a Day in their Snee Farm yard, only to be reprimanded by the homeowners’ association for breaking a sign rule. (Boo, HOA.) There’s an artist who paints hearts to give to health care workers. Barbecue king Rodney Scott is providing food for first responders. Charleston police partnered with the city’s parks department to offer safe pop-up Easter egg giveaways for kids. A photographer made fun chalk drawings for backgrounds for neighborhood photos.
This is exactly how people across our state and nation should be responding. And news media should be reporting more of these kinds of stories, in addition to the stark realities and challenges posed at home and abroad by the coronavirus.
South Carolina, launched as a business proposition 350 years ago, is resilient. Her people will get through this pandemic, despite dramas in state and national politics. For now, we have to continue to be patient, stay distanced and wait until it’s safe to move toward what will be a new normal.
In the meantime, perform intentional acts of kindness. You’ll be glad you did, as Winston Churchill once alluded to: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Andy Brack is the publisher of Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org.