Even during “normal” times, we all know the importance of, every now and then, reading about the better nature of ourselves displayed in actions that are heartwarming and inspiring.
These “good stories” have become vital in our daily confrontation with existential bad news both regarding our health and the ever-increasing untenable economic situation for our nation.
Yet, as we look to actions that rarely make the news because they are the opposite of threatening and anxiety-producing, (two factors that generate clicks and viewership), I contend these are exactly the kinds of stories that are bigger than a one-off needed respite from bad news: They are actually the biggest indication of all about why humanity is worth saving and why we will be OK.
Consider the story of a Minnesota state trooper pulling over a woman who was speeding. He finds out she’s a doctor heading to work in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, opting to give her only a warning. He chastised her for speeding, and then this happened as relayed by the doctor in her Facebook post about the incident:
“As I sputtered to apologize and say thank you, he reached in to hand me what I assumed was my license back. It wasn’t until my hand had closed around what he was giving me that its unexpected bulkiness drew my eyes to it. Five N95 masks, from the supply the state had given him for his protection,” she wrote, adding, “This complete stranger, who owed me nothing and is more on the front lines than I am, shared his precious masks with me, without my even asking,” she wrote. “We are going to be OK.”
This story may present as an isolated small act of kindness, but nothing could be further from the truth. Actions involving care and generosity are happening everywhere, not only in our country but around the world; they just don’t make the news. This doctor also understood the experience was more than about the face masks; it was an action that revealed who we really are and why, indeed, “we’re going to be OK.”
And then there are stories of people coming together even in this type of isolation to also make a point of encouraging other people. The Washington Post wrote about the nightly celebration for medical workers here in New York City:
“Ovations are on pause in the theaters and concert halls and stadiums of this city. But they haven’t ceased. They’ve just moved into the streets. Like clockwork, they happen, every evening at 7. Up and down Manhattan — and probably the Bronx and Staten Island, too — cheers ring out from apartment towers and brownstones, along with the sounds of rhythmic chants, applause and whistles. … The new urban ritual, which is catching on in other cities, coincides with the shift break of hospital staffs, when medical workers emerge from the COVID-19 war zone. …”
Coming together, recognizing and applauding those on the front line in the medical community, is another sign of our inherent desire as human beings to lift up and inspire those who sacrifice everything for the few.
From a city where thousands come together every night to encourage those who are nursing a city back to health and life, comes a story of others on the front line working to ensure our future: The teachers of this country.
One of the life-altering experiences for many has been the closure of schools around the country, with so many Americans at the same time working from home. With children home needing to be schooled while adults endeavor to get their daily work done, even with the concomitant frustrations, many families have never had so much togetherness!
For the kids, many are finding it can be a struggle learning “virtually” when part of the school experience is about being with others, and having direct interaction with your classmates and your teacher.
In one case, a 12-year-old in South Dakota was having difficulty with a math problem despite the virtual classroom instruction with her teacher and other classmates. She and her teacher exchanged emails looking for more advice and instruction. She was still struggling when, according to a tweet posted by her father, there was a knock at the door and his daughter’s teacher had come over to their house with a whiteboard and began helping his student while standing outside on the porch. Respecting social distancing guidelines, this teacher knew the personal exchange between a teacher and student might make the difference, and he was right.
All three of these stories are about the human condition, and our desire and understanding that inspiring and lifting each other up matters. They also show us how, as social creatures, we will find a way to respect the rules in these very strange times while also reaching out and supporting each other, however we can manage it. It is in our nature. It is the human condition. It is who we are.
It’s a little like noticing a crack in your driveway and suddenly there is a little blade of grass bursting through, determined to survive and thrive, regardless of the restrictions that may exist. It is a reminder that life matters and as social creatures human accomplishment and progress will prevail especially in challenging times.