David Marsden: Signs of kindness lift our spirits during COVID-19 pandemic

From teddy bears, to colourful cutouts of hearts, to expressions of support spray-painted in the spring snow, central Albertans are pulling together in response to the measures being taken to combat the COVID-19 virus.

These simple gestures are important in trying times, because like any symbol of caring, whether it’s a thoughtful word or a present, it buoys the giver just as much as it does the person who witnesses and receives such affirmation.

All of us appreciate knowing we’re part of something bigger than ourselves.

Now, as many individuals have been instructed to self-quarantine in our homes, and are told to keep a safe distance from others, such whimsy conveys a message that “this too will pass.”

Many of us have been required to temporarily step away from our jobs, or have been tethered by the internet from our homes to our workplaces as a safety precaution.

But these tokens to comfort, and yes, love, say what’s most important: we may be physically isolated, but we’re all still together.

ALSO READ: When it comes to COVID-19, let science be our guide

The point is made over and over again as we pass by homes in our caring neighbourhoods.

Sanela Sarcevic took to Facebook on the weekend to urge residents to put teddy bears in their windows to show “we’re in this together.”

The 48-year-old thought it would be fun for parents to enjoy a break and take their home-bound children on a “bear hunt” and count how many of the comfy toys they could spot.

“These are challenging times, and I always believe in helping others during hard times. It’s the only thing we can control,” said Sarcevic.

Other central Albertans have channelled the soothing images of illuminated Christmas ornaments as an appropriate meme at this time of common angst.

“It’s about giving hope and comfort in dark times. It’s about us coming together as a community, a province and as a country, to say ‘we will beat this, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel,’” Andrew MacDonald, a Sylvan Lake resident participating in the effort, wrote on Facebook.

Both central Albertans are right, of course. And so are their innumerable neighbours who are eschewing restraint for unbridled expressions of caring and support.

Such gestures are no substitute for following the advice of our medical professionals, who recommend staying home if we show symptoms of the virus, and urge us to keep at least six feet between ourselves and strangers.

The gestures also don’t help shut-ins who aren’t able to get outdoors for a brief walk or enjoy the images while in the car on an errand, such as buying groceries.

That’s where a phone call to a relative would help. Or perhaps a card left in the mailbox of a neighbour, letting them know you’re thinking of them and ready to help with any essential chores that need to be done.

Still, there’s no denying the power of a simply drawn heart, or of uplifting words spray-painted along a rural road, like those recently spotted in Ponoka County.

“I think there’s nothing better than trying to brighten someone’s day,” said Renee Griffiths, who wanted to spread a little cheer to her neighbours.

Agreed. We can use more joy and kindness in the days to come.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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