As of early April 2020, over one-third of the world is facing some type of lockdown because of Coronavirus. People in different countries are facing various levels of quarantine and social restriction. But what we are all experiencing is a steady stream of bad news. We are drowning in stories of sickness and death. But there are also rays of hope and human kindness penetrating the separation and isolation.
With older people most at risk of infection, 80-year-old John Kline was suddenly separated from Ann, his wife of 45 years. She lives in a nursing home and suffers from Alzheimer’s. Before the pandemic, John would visit her every night, but now the state government has banned visitors. That hasn’t stopped John from connecting with her and making sure she doesn’t forget him. He stands at her window every day and sings to her. He says, “… I’m trying to make the statement that no matter what happens, there’s no reason to give up on love. If she gets where she doesn’t know me, I will still go see her, because I will still know her.”
Humans supporting each other despite Coronavirus restrictions are also happening on a mass scale. New York City is called the city that never sleeps. With over 8 million residents, it’s normally bustling at all hours of the day or night. But recent drone videos show some streets nearly empty of cars and pedestrians. With all non-essential businesses closed and citizens told to stay home, it is eerily quiet. You can hear a pin drop. That changes every night at 7 pm. New Yorkers are hanging out their windows screaming, applauding, and banging pots. Two minutes later, silence returns to the city streets. They’re not just letting off steam. They are showing appreciation. They clap for the medical workers, trash collectors and other essential workers who leave their homes and risk their lives on a daily basis. One New Yorker says, “They are saints. They mean everything right now. They are saving New York.”
This tradition didn’t begin in The Big Apple. Similar displays of appreciation while maintaining social distance first started appearing in Europe. People applauding medical staff from windows and balconies has been recorded in Italy, Spain, France, Greece, and the Netherlands. Even King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands got in on the action. He said, “We’re clapping tonight out of respect and to say thank you to all the health care workers in the Netherlands who are protecting us against this horrible Coronavirus.”
In addition to displays of gratitude, people in some cities are overcoming isolation and connecting to their neighbors through music. Italians in the city of Siena boosted morale by spontaneously singing out their windows. Similarly, Italians from all over the country sang their national anthem together on March 20th. Many opened their windows and balconies expressing unity despite their individual separation.