There is something about a crisis that binds people together. There is a sense of camaraderie and common purpose that isn’t necessary most of the time.
People all over the world are being instructed to stay home to prevent the spread of the deadly COVID-19, and our worlds have been turned upside down – work suspended, our children at home, and our elderly loved ones in lockdown. It’s not surprising many are feeling fearful and anxious.
Yet there is also a sense in our communities that ‘we’re all in this together’.
I have noticed people are showing each other new courtesies. A driver waved me into his lane happily during peak hour, a man at the supermarket smiled broadly to me as he handed me the basket he had recently disinfected, strangers on the street nod and smile as we pass.
These quiet, small acts of kindness are a welcome antidote to the background hum of worry during a pandemic.
The internet is awash with news of COVID-19, with daily updates on where we are up to on ‘the curve’ and the latest government edicts. We are all hungry for information on the spread of the virus.
But kindness has also gone viral.
There was the story about the copywriter who created a postcard to help people who are self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic. Becky Wass came up with the idea to create shareable cards that allow people to offer help to their elderly or vulnerable neighbours.
“Hello! If you are self-isolating, I can help,” the cards read, providing spaces for the author to write their name, address, phone number and possible tasks that they might need help with. There are check boxes for ‘picking up shopping’ and ‘a friendly phone call’. The cards have been printed and shared all over the world.
— ITV News (@itvnews) March 15, 2020
There’s the story of the manager of the local store who gave his phone number to elderly residents so they could call him and have their shopping delivered.
A very lovely thing indeed..
Sam, the manager of our local @Tesco Express in East Dulwich has been giving his contact number to elderly customers and delivering shopping for them. He also has a reserve of toilet roll for those most in need too👏🏻🙌#viralkindness #coronavirusuk pic.twitter.com/y1WXub2KK5
— Kait Borsay (@kaitborsay) March 17, 2020
And there’s Archie, who wrote to residents at the nursing home across the road from his home. He asked if any of the residents would like to be his pen-pal.
We live next to a care home. My son was super sad they may not get to see people during the outbreak and has been writing this letters. My heart ❤️#CovidWalkout #viralkindness pic.twitter.com/SYTLbTZ9kC
— Charley (@Charley_Dug) March 18, 2020
Catherine Barrett, founder of Celebrate Ageing, recognised the need for people to experience kindness at this time.
Concerned about coronavirus and the implications for older people, she wanted to make sure older people were okay, she explained to HelloCare.
“But when I looked at what was happening – the violence, the abuse in supermarkets – I realised it wasn’t just kindness for older people that was needed, it was kindness across the board.”
She established the #TheKindnessPandemic Facebook page, which has attracted more than a million followers in two weeks.
The page’s first campaign was to support supermarket workers, and the next was to help healthcare staff.
HelloCare asked Ms Barrett why a crisis can make people feel more inclined to kindness.
“For some people, that’s all they’ve got,” she said.
“Kindness is always there in most of us,” she said. “But what happens is we get so busy, and we lose sight of what’s important. We think that other things are important, like working hard.”
Kindness restores our faith in humanity, she said.
“People want to see acts of kindness because they’re scared and because some people are behaving badly. The stories of the panic buyers and the hoarders have been shared far and wide and it wipes people’s faith in humanity.
“At a time when we are all going through something that’s just horrible, people want to believe in a common good.”
Explaining the campaign’s instant success, Ms Barret said, “Inviting people to share kindness has really pushed a button with a lot of people. They’re saying ‘yes, I want to see this and i want to be part of it’.
She said kindness has three effects on people. It has an impact on the receiver, but it also has an effect on the giver. The campaign has helped people become aware of how good it feels to be kind, Mr Barret said.
The page has also created a community of kindness. It has attracted comments such as ‘I feel a sense of shared humanity’, ‘I feel part of a greater good’, ‘I feel we can get through this together’, ‘I feel like I belong’, and ‘I feel like things are going to be okay’.
It’s become a place for people to go when they want to feel and witness kindness.
“People come to the page and they say, ‘it’s going to be okay’,” Ms Barret said.
The page has been a welcome and much-needed balm for thousands, but also for Ms Barrett herself.
“It’s the thing that gets me though,” she said.
“When I’m on this page I feel positive about our capacity to get through this. When I step out of this page and get on Facebook or listen to the news I feel horrified. So I’m just on this page. This is my lifeline.
“Physically I’m exhausted, but mentally I feel really good,” she said.