Kindness during chaos


  • Focus
  • Sunday, 05 Apr 2020

Kindness of neighbours in Sabah during the pandemic. - Prisca Lambun/ Facebook

AMIDST this global pandemic, we are seeing a surge in something that gives us hope: Kindness is trending.

As Sarah Friar, CEO of Nextdoor, an online neighbourhood hub to help people make connections, writes on CNN with Born This Way Foundation president Cynthia Bissett Germanotta: "We are seeing it everywhere" – from the grocery store clerks in United States organising food runs for elderly neighbours to the “balcony musicians” in locked-down cities of Italy, trying to bring some joy and hope to those in quarantine,

Nearer to home we have the “food fences” in villages of Sabah, where residents leave fruits and vegetables out for their neighbours who cannot go out to buy food during the country’s movement control order (MCO).

These stories of generosity and compassion are surfacing around the world.

You need only jump on the recently launched Kindness Pandemic Facebook page to be reminded of just how generous and thoughtful communities can be in times of crisis: there are people paying take-away meals forward in cafes, kids donating pocket money to friends in need and shoppers delivering trolley-loads of pizzas to around-the-clock supermarket workers.

But why is it, exactly, that it takes a global pandemic for us to be nice to each other? Why can’t we do good deeds, all the time?

As Professor Amanda Barnier of Macquarie University’s Department of Cognitive Science tells her university’s online portal The Lighthouse, people are actually kind most of the time.

“But when things are ‘normal’, our acts of kindness are unconscious – we take them for granted. When things slide out of normality, as they have recently, we not only pay more attention to these random acts of kindness, but also do them more often, ” she is quoted.

It’s our way, Barnier says, of grabbing the reins – of gaining some control in a situation that seems to be completely out of our control.

“Being kind shows us that not everything is uncertain.”

Friar puts it like this: “We believe kindness is what will carry us through this challenging time. Of course kindness can’t ensure our physical health, but it can help with feeling isolated during social distancing. In this way, it can help keep us healthy. It will hold our local communities together. It will lift our spirits.”

Here are some heartwarming stories of ordinary people around the world doing extraordinarily selfless acts for those around them, whether family, friends or strangers. – Agencies

Free pizzas for the elderly

Milan Varga saved for three years to be able to open his small pizzeria in Budapest, Hungary, on Monday, March 23. On Tuesday his customers all but disappeared as streets emptied due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With lots of ingredients stocked up, Varga quickly changed his plans – he decided to make and deliver free pizzas to the elderly who have to self-isolate in their homes.

“If I cannot sell pizzas at least I can help those in need by giving them free pizzas if they voluntarily put themselves into quarantine, and thus I am trying to look after them and make sure they stay at home, ” said the 20-year-old. – Reuters

‘Support baskets’ for the homeless

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing a lockdown in many parts of the world, it is the homeless and poor who have been hit the hardest and people in Italy have come up with a novel way to solve the issue. To help those in need due to the crisis, people in Naples are filling baskets with food and lowering them from their balconies, The Guardian reported.

Called “support basket”, it is based on an ancient tradition of the city. While the initiative was started in one street, it soon spread to other areas and many joined the bandwagon.

Several videos and pictures of food-filled baskets hanging from balconies were shared on social media. One sign captured the spirit: “If you can, put something inside. If you can’t, take something”. – Reuters

To love, to hold and to carry

They were hungry. Some had not eaten for days. Others survived on water and biscuits. But they walked anyway for hundreds of miles, in groups of families that included men and women, young and old – all trudging along deserted highways – after the Indian govenrment announced a 21-day lockdown on March 26.

With no daily earnings, no savings, and thus no way to buy food, the country’s migrant workers have no choice but to head home to survive.

However, train services were suspended, taxis were unaffordable and the hundreds of buses brought to the outskirts of New Delhi to ferry people home lacked enough seats. That left walking.

Some had nothing but flip-flops on their feet, and others lugged bags on their heads. Young parents balanced children on their shoulders.

Migrant worker Ramesh Meena carried his wife Ramila, who had fractured her leg, all the way to their home village in Rajasthan. – AP

Stitching communities together

In the infamous Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, close to 20,000 people live in a space designed for just under 3,000. There is already limited access to running water in the camp, and toilets and showers regularly block due to overuse.

It’s a health crisis waiting to happen in normal times, what more during this pandemic.

Not waiting for help from the outside world, a group of four Afghan women, led by a former tailor from Kabul, volunteered their time to sew face masks for the camp’s population. Others meanwhile started to raise awareness on Covid-19.

The women worked at a rapid rate and in their first day made approximately 500 masks, which were fashioned from cotton fabric bought from local shops.

The masks were packaged into plastic wrappers purchased from the local supermarket and boxed to be brought to the camp.

The masks were then given out for free to camp residents who started to feel unwell or exhibited symptoms of the coronavirus. – AFP

Gifting walls and fences

Walls and fences evoke a dark memory for Germans historically. However, amid the Covid-19 health crisis, many are building them in their communities and around the cities throughout Germany – to help those struggling during the pandemic.

It started with people hanging out bags of food, clothes and other essentials for the needy on the fences in their area.

As the demand grew, new fences and walls sprouted around the country for people to leave their donations for those who need them in this time of challenge. – AFP

Face mask donation

A few weeks ago they were queuing up to buy face masks, now South Koreans are queuing to give them away to those who need them including the poor and the elderly.

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, the country’s Salvation Army even transformed their charity pots into donation boxes to collect quarantine supplies like face masks and hand sanitisers for social service workers such as street cleaners, bus drivers and security guards. – AFP

Open-air opera

As they say, music cannot be quarantined, so after the Polish government urged citizens to stay at home for a few weeks to limit the spread of Covid-19, many local musicians have taken a note from their fellow artistes’ music sheets around the world to make their home their stage.

One is opera singer Michal Janicki, who performed arias on the balcony of his flat in Warsaw to lift the spirits of his neighbours during the pandemic. – AFP

For Malaysian stories of acts of kindness during the pandemic, see Rallying to support vulnerable groups.

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