Caremongering in the age of the coronavirus

File photo: Reuters

NEW YORK – Publicized examples of ‘caremongering’, a term coined by Canadians, in the age of the coronavirus, which emphasizes an abundance of kindness and urge to help others in communities, is growing. The world can’t get enough of it.

Often snippets in the deluge of heart-breaking and anxiety-raising news of the coronavirus pandemic which threatens to engulf the world of humans, the myriad acts of kindness nevertheless, has begun to be distinctly recognized for what it is: strangers and neighbors going out of their way to make this world a better place.

The New York Times reported a man standing curbside on a street in Queens, distributing free masks and hand sanitizers to stunned strangers passing by. A blog in Brookings described a woman giving hand sanitizers to two strangers after the duo found there were no more left on a store shelf. She refused payment.

A wonderful story with an attached video came out in Curbed Atlanta, of neighbors in Decatur throwing a surprise birthday party for a 7-year-old boy, while practicing social distancing.

The boy, Kai Thompson, was told his party was going to be cancelled because of the coronavirus situation. It turned out to be his best party ever. Neighbors on his street lined up outside their homes and greeted, sang, cheered the delighted boy as he drove on the block, on a bicycle.

Last week, more than 200 Atlantans banded together through the organization Meals on Wheels to pack and deliver some 35,000 meals to the city’s high-risk elderly community, the report added.

The New York Times noted how people are serenading each other across windowsills. Animal shelters are reporting upticks in foster applications. Volunteers are buying groceries for their neighbors, cities are starting programs to feed the homeless, and stores are offering exclusive hours for older shoppers.

Also, responding to dire equipment shortages at hospitals, sewing circles organized on social media are stitching scraps of shower curtains and flowered fabric into masks, and craft distilleries are using spirits to make hand sanitizer, for free.

The Times also reported that some landlords are waiving or lowering rent, and some employers are recognizing an obligation to look out for employees. Broadway producers agreed to pay actors and stage crew workers through the next several weeks, and unions and companies negotiated to increase the salaries of some grocery store employees, who have become an indispensable work force in the crisis.

In Kansas, after schools were closed for the rest of the academic year, district employees in Kansas City began driving to students’ homes to drop off bags filled with breakfast and lunch. More than 70 percent of the district’s 23,000 students rely on school meals.

The New York Post reported Long Island mom Diana Berrent, 45, who tested positive last week for the coronavirus, recounting acts of kindness from friends, neighbors, politicians and even actors that have helped her through 12 days of isolation.

“I cut out a quote recently and taped it to my computer. It says “kindness is an act of courage.” Little did I know it then, but never has it seemed so relevant. So many friends and strangers alike have reached out with acts of kindness, both large and small and each has been an incredible source of light during these otherwise bleak times,” wrote Berrent.

She added: “Neighbors dropped off a thermometer when the only ones available in the stores were the basal kind that max out at 101 and my fever was spiking higher than the thermometer could display. A woman in my neighborhood didn’t ask if I wanted or needed a lasagna — she just made it and brought it and left it at my doorstep and it fed my family for days.”

Mind you, these are strangers risking their own health, going out of their way, in a situation where medical care is getting hard to come by.

All of the more than 1,800 intensive care beds in New York City are expected to be full by Friday, March 27, 2020, according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing obtained by The New York Times. Patients could stay for weeks, limiting space for newly sickened people.

Then there’s the absolutely heart-rending story of Kious Kelly, an assistant nurse manager at Mount Sinai West hospital in Manhattan, who died from the coronavirus. He texted his sister on March 18 to say he had tested positive for the coronavirus and was on a ventilator in the intensive care unit.

“‘I’m okay,’” he wrote. “‘Don’t tell Mom and Dad. They’ll worry.’”

“He used to carry around a thick notepad holder that hides a box full of chocolates and candies so he can have it handy to give out to miserable/grumbly nurses and doctors who are more likely than not ‘hangry,’” Joanne Loo, a nurse at Mount Sinai West, posted on Facebook on Wednesday, after news came of his passing away.

The Week magazine reported that the coronavirus outbreak presents a good opportunity to teach kids about social responsibility, and how their own seemingly small acts of sacrifice and kindness — from washing hands and staying home, to volunteering for those in need — can improve the lives of many, many others.

“This is perhaps the greatest opportunity in decades to teach children about life’s delicate balance between looking out for ourselves and doing what we want, and looking out for others and doing what is best for the country,” says Mike Erwin, the co-founder and chairman of The Positivity Project, which partners with educators to help them empower young people through positive relationships.

Put it in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic by explaining why hoarding supplies or over-buying at this time is not the right thing to do, says Erwin, the Week reported.

“Show them videos and talk about the millions of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, grocery store owners, and other critical workers who are working long hours to keep the country going, share the stories of people who are showing kindness in their community by shopping for the elderly, donating blood, volunteering in food banks, etc.,” Erwin says.

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)



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