In what feels like forever, the country seems to be feeling on the verge of uniting again. The last time I had felt this in my lifetime was over 18 years ago when I first heard about the World Trade Center. The uncertainty and fear feels remarkably similar. We are again celebrating and revering thankless or forgotten jobs (seriously, when was the last time truckers have been this recognized?). It is amazing that in 18 years, at the peak of political divisiveness, we are again learning to be neighbors.
I’ve heard stories about homemade masks being offered to those that have none, casseroles delivered to neighbors’ doorsteps, and families sitting on their front porches as the kids play in the streets. All the sudden Americans are becoming involved in one another’s lives without politics or government at the epicenter. Scrolling through Facebook has become a tour of human decency; I’ve seen friends offering to buy their immunocompromised friends groceries, postings of drive-by birthdays and stories of cities lighting up their skyscrapers with hopeful messages. Even one of my neighbors offered a spare stash of toilet paper (not because he hoarded but because he is single…). We finally saw an example of a Hollywood elite who decided to spread good news instead of preaching at us. In fact the SGN network got over 13 million views on their first video and 2 million views of the second video within 2 hours of posting it on YouTube. Communities have rallied behind small business restaurants to try to help pull them through. We have seen innovation by individuals and big businesses, like the distilleries that quickly pivoted their business model to produce hand sanitizer. The human spirit is buzzing with ingenuity and thoughtfulness, and no mandate was passed for us to do so, no elected official ordered neighbors to look out for one another. This is all happening out of free will.
The big question that now comes to mind is what will we do when this ends? Will we retain all of these neighborly activities or will we again get swallowed by the “grind”? Will we continue to pay attention to our friends who have needs? Will we sacrifice our time and efforts to help those we may not know? What I have seen is that despite all the troubles, and unfortunate circumstances, we citizens have turned to each other and leaned on our friends. Despite the incessant news full of politicians bloviating and pontificating, we have turned inward and taken personal responsibility for our own families and communities. We need to remember this, remember the good being created, and not turn to the government ever again to absolve our need for compassion. It is as if, for a long time, Americans have expected the government (national or local) to ‘just take care of it’. Oh don’t worry too much about Sally the single mom next door, government will pay for her food. And don’t pay too much attention to that elderly couple at the end of the block, we will just vote for someone who won’t get rid of social security and they will be fine. On and on the record of government force plays on. But I don’t see that record playing and creating the scenes I have seen the past few weeks. I don’t see the government efficiently helping the lives of others. We need to be the change we wish to see in the world, and not ask the government to be that change. Because we have seen that the media and the government can obfuscate and confuse, but neighbors can actually make a difference, even if it is simply one roll of two-ply at a time.