Updated: Aug 18
Ever since COVID-19 turned the world upside down in March, it has brought difficult realities into many people’s lives. Although local news may seem dire, it is actually in these times when our communities can become stronger and more united than ever.
It has been said that hard times can bring out the best in people, who have been coalescing behind mantras of getting through hardships together. Where I live in Montreal, this can be seen everywhere in the “ça va bien aller” signs (it’s going to be alright) throughout the city. In my home state of Pennsylvania people are also coalescing behind altruism, recognizing that acts of kindness, no matter how small can go a long way during a time where individual-personal hardships are exacerbated.
As you will read, even the smallest of kind gestures can pick someone up and make their day; reminding them that good people exist in their community and that good things happen all the time. In difficult times it is often these smaller gestures that keep us aware of that fact, and so not to get bogged down or become hopeless against a world one may perceive as gloomy or lonesome. For the altruist, the one who provides this necessary counterforce, small acts of kindness bring not only a sense of purpose, but also a sense of unity and strength that goes beyond what one individual can accomplish.
After hearing news that my county was among the worst hit by COVID-19, I wanted to learn more about ways the community was staying strong through altruism. With help from my mom and sister, we made a form for people to share how altruism has helped them get through a difficult time.
These were their responses:
Liz - PA
"My neighbor set up a daily check-in with the families on our block. We live in twin homes with connected porches, so we all come out on our own porches at 5 PM for a “pandemic porch party”. Neighbors check in with each other, lend each other tools, make batches of granola for the block or leave out bags of extra mint cut from gardens. It is Philadelphia, but it feels like an old school community check-in."
"I try to be present and give people around my good thoughts during this time."
"A friend unannounced dropped off beautiful homemade masks. My day was really brightened by her kindness and creativity. Inspired by my friend's act, my family made cards for healthcare workers using materials we found around the house to be delivered alongside donated food.
"I started making beaded bracelets which I then sold to my friends and family. I made around $150 which I am donating to WWF!!!!!!"
Carly - PA
"Over quarantine, I have been to a Starbucks and Dunkin drive-through and twice people have paid for my purchase, a trend which we then continued. A small act but definitely rewarding and fun, it made me happy!"
Anne-Marie - AK
"Receiving kindness: I am working as a public health nurse during the pandemic and a group of volunteers sewed masks for healthcare providers and dropped some off for us at work."
"Giving kindness: One of my close friends was supposed to get married in May. The wedding was postponed (and now perhaps cancelled altogether, depending on how things go over the next few weeks). I'm a bridesmaid in the wedding party. We knew she'd be feeling a bit sad on the day her wedding was supposed to happen, so we wanted to do something memorable that would make her laugh. In the weeks leading up to the original wedding date, all of the bridesmaids planned and practiced the steps to 'Dancing Queen'. It was surprisingly hard to learn the dance, so we all practiced individually then had a practice zoom session before the big day. On the original wedding date, we told her we were going to have a 'bridesmaids happy hour' and surprised her by getting dressed up and performing "Dancing Queen" via Zoom, each of us in our separate homes across the country. She cried! It was super fun and hopefully, she will remember it."
Paul - PA
"As 2020 began, I was 17 years into my otolaryngology (ENT) career and had reached a point where I felt comfortable and confident in my ability to evaluate patients and manage a wide variety of medical and surgical conditions."
"Then COVID arrived on the scene and my comfort level took a big hit. Suddenly, I was studying a complex new disease for hours each day and trying to find a safe way to continue seeing patients that needed urgent management of their ENT problems. On top of these issues, health care providers from around the world were dying from COVID, and most at risk were those providers doing airway procedures, including otolaryngologists like me. So when the hospitalist physician called at 11 am and said she needed my help because her COVID + patient had an out-of-control nosebleed, I knew I could handle the nosebleed, but I was more scared for my own health than I’d ever been before in caring for patients, even more, afraid than when I’d operated on HIV+ patients. I arrived at the COVID unit and asked “Who is going to partner with me putting on the PAPR?” Those of us doing airway procedures had been trained to use special PAPR equipment which looks a bit like an astronaut suit. The PAPR training including having a trained partner to make sure the equipment was put on correctly to prevent COVID transmission. Unfortunately, there were no PAPR-trained personnel available on the unit, and the nosebleed needed immediate attention. I took a deep breath, tried to mask my frustration and fear, then realized I had another option. I called the on-call hospital anesthetist, who I knew had been using the PAPR to safely place breathing tubes, and luckily, she was available to help. Despite the late hour and her already-busy night, she came and guided me through the protocol to make sure my equipment was put on correctly. She waited until I was done managing the nosebleed, then asked, “are you ok?” I nodded. She said reassuringly, “The first few COVID airway cases are terrifying, then you get used to it and you just trust your equipment and the protocol.” I thanked her and I still thank her every time I see her."
Sami - California
About a month or so into quarantine, I realized that I no longer really had a need for physical cash. All my purchases were either contactless or required the use of a card because it was safer, and so I had around $80 just sitting around my wallet from a withdrawal I made back in March. I decided that the cash would be more useful in the hands of someone else, so I sprayed down the bills with disinfectant and hit the road. I drove around for about an hour before I found someone asking for donations outside of a grocery store parking lot. Since the grocery store was right there, I ran inside and bought a bag of non-perishables. When I came back out, I put the 80 dollars in the bag, put it in a shady spot about 6 feet away from the person, wished them a good day, and drove off.
I didn't wait to see them open it and find the 80 dollars. Their smile when they saw the bag was enough for me. The act brought me happiness for days to come and somehow made my whole situation a little more tolerable.
Natalie - CA
My friend is a brilliant violinist and she stands on the sidewalk outside the balconies of the senior center to serenade the residents once a week. I went to watch one time, and a couple started slow dancing in their window!! It was very cute.
Jason - Il
My friend lives in a small studio apartment and I knew she was really looking forward to her birthday this year, but our state was under stay at home orders. To help her feel better, I organized with all of her friends and we each sent her one of her favorite yummy treats: cookies, brownies, donuts. She was a little upset about what we were doing to her waistline, but I knew she was happy having been thought of.
Sharon - WA
I ran out of toilet paper, with no way of getting any more. My friend dropped a few of their rolls on my stoop with a note saying, "Happy S**ting!!" It was a small thing, but very necessary and appreciated.
To all those that wrote in: thank you for sharing your stories. They have certainly brightened my days. Keep up the amazing work!
- The fight is still ongoing. I know it has gotten tiresome but don't let up. Remember that one of the greatest acts of kindness we can do right now is to keep wearing a mask, to keep social distancing, and to keep loving one another from afar.
- Unprecedented times call for unprecedented kindness. If you are looking for ideas of nice things you can do for others right now, iA's earlier article, How to Help During the COVID-19 Pandemic, is a great resource to get you started.
- If you are looking for organizations to support right now that can help lighten the load for those in need, contact us, and we can help talk you through some options.
About the Author
Teddy Chiara is an adventure-loving, joke-slinging, French-speaking political science and philosophy student at McGill University. During his free time, he enjoys exploring new trails, meeting new friends, and reconnecting with old ones. He is also a fan of the arts, enjoying all kinds of music (minus country), writing for a few journals, and catching up on new and old movies as well as independent reading.
In the future, Teddy aspires to travel the world and enter a career helping people facing injustice and poverty.